The independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) published its latest comprehensive review of the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) yesterday.
In September last year, the Government initiated a broad review of the Shortage Occupation List, the SOL, emphasizing the importance of assessing labour shortages based on the latest available evidence. In fact, the committee’s previous review of (permitting more relaxed visa conditions for specific jobs) first emerged in September 2020.
What were the results of the Migration Advisory Committee Review?
The headline finding from the recent review is that the MAC recommends ending the SOL. First, apparently they believe the SOL raises the risk of exploitation, lowers wages, and imposes high administrative burdens. Furthermore, the committee expressed their lack of confidence in the SOL as a practical immigration solution for labour shortages in low-wage sectors.
The report’s report details a brief overview of the content, highlighting a significant change in this review. In particular, they recommend that no employer should be allowed to pay below the “going rate,” whether there is a labour shortage or not. The “going rate” is the full-time annual salary that only the lowest 25% of workers earn. Therefore, the change hopes to protect local workers from wage undercutting. Of course, this will hopefully reduce the exploitation of migrants.
Previously, being on the SOL allowed employers to pay 80% of the going rate. With this change, most occupations on the SOL will become ineligible. This doesn’t mean they won’t face labour shortages. Rather, it means the Skilled Worker (SW) route already addresses these shortages. Their focus has been on occupations where the going rate is below the general salary threshold of £26,200 per year, making it beneficial to pay below this threshold.
What does opening up low wage occupations mean for migrant workers?
Allowing more liberal access to low-wage occupations carries risks. Low-wage employment is where serious worker exploitation often occurs, particularly among migrants. Migrant workers on the SW route rely on being employed by a sponsoring firm to remain in the UK. As such, it can make them vulnerable to unscrupulous employers who might exploit their vulnerability. Using the SOL to ease the recruitment of low-wage workers increases this risk.
Additionally, low-wage migrants can lead to unforeseen financial costs for the UK government. For instance, if the visa route allows dependents. Stakeholders often overlook costs when arguing for SOL inclusion – they must be recognised by those accountable to taxpayers.
What does the shortage occupation list review mean for British employers?
Finally, the Skilled Worker route doesn’t work for most low-wage employers. There are high administrative burdens and associated fees, so it’s often uneconomical.
Considering these concerns over the shortage occupation list, the preference is for the Government to abolish the SOL. Instead, they suggest that in future, the MAC explore individual occupations/sectors with acute labour market issues, possibly in collabouration with other bodies. This would focus on changes to wages, terms, conditions, training, education and technology investment. In other words, amore practical response to the problems.
If the Government chooses to retain the SOL, a minor review will be conducted in Spring 2024.
The review recommends adding 8 occupations to the SOL and 2 to the Scotland-only SOL. Government also considered RQF 1-2 occupations ineligible for the SW route due to skill thresholds but found insufficient evidence of steps taken to improve domestic recruitment. The Government stressed that the inclusion of such occupations should be exceptional, as reflected in their recommendations.
FTo learn more:
For more information please contact Leena Chouhan our Immigration Department Head on 02074275972
A 130-page report is available for reference. For the review and UK Government Website on this matter see HERE;