We need more vets, web designers and architects

6 June 2019

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has published its latest review of the shortage occupation list (SOL) and, as well as adding a number of new jobs has expanded many of those already on the list to include all roles within that occupation.

Recognising the increasing difficulty in filling such roles, these expanded sections include medical practitioners, nurses, programmers and software development professionals. This means the SOL will cover around 9% of jobs in the labour market, compared to 1% under the previous list.

Details of all the recommended changes can be found at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/804986/Full-review-of-the-shortage-occupation-list.pdf.

What is the SOL?

The SOL is a way of prioritising some jobs over others, based on where the shortages are most severe and where the consequences of those shortages are most serious. Being on the SOL conveys certain advantages including not having to conduct a Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT), exemption from the £35,000 minimum income threshold for settlement and lower visa fees.

To be placed on the SOL, a job must meet three requirements: skilled (are the jobs skilled to the required level?), shortage (is the job in shortage?) and sensible (is it sensible to try to fill those shortages through migration?).

The Committee decided that these criteria had been met in the case of veterinarians, web designers and architects.

MAC Chairman Professor Alan Manning said: “Today’s labour market is very different to the one we reviewed when the last SOL was published in 2013. Unemployment is lower and employers in various industries are facing difficulties in finding skilled people to fill their vacancies. That is why we have recommended expanding the SOL to cover a range of occupations in health, information and engineering fields”.

The future of immigration

He emphasised that the recommendations are only applicable under the current immigration system, while EU free movement remains. The MAC is recommending a full review of the SOL once there is a clearer picture of what the future immigration system will look like.

The latest report also suggests removing the restriction on chef visas, which currently excludes those offering a takeaway service. This is in recognition of the changing nature of the hospitality sector and with the aim of future-proofing the list.

It further recommends pilots to expand the evidence-base on what might work in migration policy for remote communities and consideration of medium-skilled occupations which may become eligible for the SOL in the future.

Comment by Croner Associate Director Paul Holcroft

This is an interesting development from the MAC and sends a clear message that there are growing concerns over skill shortages in the UK.

Although the Committee only specifies recommendations for an expansion of the SOL, and we do not yet know how the Government will respond to this, employers in these fields may be comforted by the fact that there is consideration to allow them further opportunity to fill roles with individuals from overseas.

However, it still remains unclear what a future immigration system will look like post-Brexit and employers should not take these recommendations as gospel. What is clear is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find skilled individuals to take up key roles in certain areas and employers must be prepared to explore new ways of attracting the applicants they need or to upskill their current staff.