The shortage occupation list (SOL) has previously assisted businesses in sponsoring overseas talent, offering a 20% cut in hiring costs. However, that’s all set to change in response to recommendations in the government-commissioned MAC report from October 2023. Following this report, the government has commissioned a new rapid review of the updated SOL, now known as the Immigration Salary List (ISL). This review will be made available by February 23rd.
It’s natural to feel concerned about the impact this review may have on you as an overseas worker, or your business if you employ foreign talent. In this post, we’ll explain what the rapid review will cover, how it may affect you, and how immigration solicitors can help.
What is the shortage occupation list?
As it sounds, the shortage occupations list outlines job roles in short supply within the UK. The government has historically provided incentives for employers to seek foreign talent to fill these vacancies.
Companies sponsoring overseas workers for positions on the shortage occupation list have benefited from a 20% salary discount, which meant they could pay overseas workers 20% less than the going rate. However, whilst general threshold discounts will remain, the government intends to scrap the 20% salary discount. This change will be implemented in Spring 2024.
You can find details about which jobs are covered by the shortage occupation list on the gov.uk website.
What is the MAC rapid review?
In October 2023, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) released a report which reviewed the Shortage Occupation List. Recommendations made by the MAC included removing the going rate discount, changing the name of the SOL to the Immigration Salary List (ISL), and overhauling the SOL system.
In response to these recommendations, the government has now commissioned the MAC to conduct a “rapid review” of the ISL, with a broader review to be conducted at some point in the near future.
What will the ISL rapid review cover?
In response to the October 2023 recommendations, the Shortage Occupation List has been renamed as the Immigration Salary List. The ISL is also to be reformed in order to streamline the visa application process for skilled worker visas.
There are several key areas that the rapid review will focus on:
Shortage job roles
In the October 2023 report, the MAC made some recommendations for specific occupations to be added to the shortages list. These included laboratory technicians, bricklayers and masons, and care workers.
Along with these recommendations, the MAC will need to review the current shortages list. They will then need to develop a temporary list of shortage positions for the Immigration Salary List, which will later be subjected to a broader review.
The MAC will also be required to examine the salary thresholds for the positions, ensuring that they align with the current market and provide a strong enough draw for highly skilled workers.
There will also be a comparison between the benefits and shortfalls of the SOL and ISL systems. This will look at the ways the ISL improves on the SOL, as well as shining a spotlight on any potential issues or downgrades where the service could be improved.
How could the findings affect me?
There are several ways the rapid review findings may impact on the ISL. Additional occupations may be added to the shortages list, as well as changes made to the salary thresholds.
In consideration of the planned hike to the earnings threshold – from £26,200 to a whopping £38,700 – many roles will no longer be eligible for visa applications. However, there may still be exceptions for roles on the shortages list, if they qualify for the general threshold discount.
Another significant change is the plan to abolish discounted salaries for roles on the shortage list. Previously, occupations on the shortage list were eligible for a 20% salary discount, meaning that companies could hire overseas workers at a lower salary than the going rate. The MAC recommended scrapping the discount to prevent migrant worker exploitation and wage undercutting.
If you’re looking to hire overseas workers, then you’ll need to think about whether you can afford to pay a salary at the going rate or higher, as the discount will no longer be available. However, you will still have access to the general threshold discount. With this discount, jobs that meet the skill requirements, but not the salary requirements, can still be considered for a visa, if the role is on the shortage list.
Previously, this discount was set at 20% of the minimum pay threshold. With the rise in the earnings threshold, this new minimum salary for shortage roles would potentially be £30,960.
For many migrants with a skilled worker visa, this is a worrying update. If they are due to renew their visa and no longer meet the minimum salary threshold, it’s currently unclear whether they will be allowed to remain in the UK. If you’re unsure about the Home Office removal policy, then it’s best to speak with an experienced immigration solicitor who can advise you.
Legal advice from experienced immigration law solicitors
The full impact of the changes to the Immigration Salary List remains to be seen. If you have a skilled worker visa or employ overseas talent, then it’s very important to stay up-to-date with the rules and regulations.
It’s important to note that this blog post is for informational purposes only. Have further questions about the MAC rapid review? Or perhaps you need advice about other immigration issues, such as visa appeals? At Osbourne Pinner Solicitors, our experienced immigration solicitors can provide the guidance and support you need.