In its most recent report, the MAC has recommended that the Shortage Occupation List should be abolished. It has also made other proposals which, if implemented, will have some additional impact on the UK’s business immigration regime.
Currently, if a particular job type is on the SOL, employers can sponsor a migrant worker on a lower salary threshold than for other skilled workers. This is the higher of £20,960 (the usual threshold is £26,200) or 80% of the “going rate” for that occupation. Immigration fees are also slightly lower.
The MAC has been asked to conduct this latest review of the SOL on the basis that their earlier recommendation that no employer should be able to pay below the going rate will be implemented. On that basis, it has concluded it is “not convinced the SOL provides a sensible immigration solution to shortage issues in low wage sectors” and recommends its abolition. If this recommendation is not accepted, it suggests it should be renamed the Immigration Salary Discount List “to correctly reflect its function in the immigration system.”
In the meantime the only occupations it recommends should stay on the list are those which with a going rate below the general salary threshold of £26,200: only eight occupation codes for the whole of the UK. These include care workers and some building trades.
If the SOL is abolished, the current reduced salary threshold for shortage occupations will be removed. This will mean that unless another reduced salary option applies, sponsors will need to pay at least the going rate for the occupation, namely £10.75 per hour or £26,200 (whichever is highest), increasing the already significant costs associated with sponsoring staff for visas. More broadly, the Government may consider a review of the discounted salary rates for other tradeable points options such as the new entrant rate.
The impact of the recommendations will depend on the extent to which they are adopted by the Government, with any changes unlikely to be implemented before Spring 2024.
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