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28th October 2020

Migration Advisory Committee report on the Shortage Occupation List

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The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) was commissioned by the government earlier this year to undertake a review of the Shortage Occupation List and consider what occupations should be included on this list in preparation for the introduction of the new points-based immigration system on 1 January 2021.

The Shortage Occupation List is a list of occupations which are recognised as having a shortage of suitable labour here in the UK. As such, it is agreed that migrant workers should be able to be recruited to fill the gaps in these occupations and, if a role is on the list, under the new system a migrant worker will receive additional points to use towards their visa application.

The MAC committee published its report on 29 September, having considered the information provided by employers, representative organisations and government departments following a call for evidence launched earlier this year.

The MAC has confirmed, as was expected, that there should be a number of additional caring and health care roles added to the Shortage occupation lists, for example, senior care workers and  nursing assistants. This will be welcome news for the health sector as there had been concerns about how these businesses would meet the demand that they will require for this type of labour when the right of free movement ends, especially given the current pandemic.

The MAC has, however, raised a number of points within its report about its concerns regarding the low wages in social care, given that a good number of roles in this sector will not meet the skills requirement of the Skilled Worker route nor will they feature on the Shortage Occupation List. The MAC advised that it felt it was important for businesses to make these types of jobs more attractive to UK workers by increasing salaries rather than relying on migrant workers, particularly during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

There are a wide range of other occupations that the MAC has reported should be added to the Shortage Occupation List, including data analysts, business analysts, bricklayers, welders, electricians, graphic designers and butchers.

The MAC has also recommended that there should be separate Shortage Occupation Lists for each of the devolved nations, to allow additional flexibility and also to recognise the different demands in each of these countries. So, for example, fishmongers, bakers and horticultural workers are needed for Northern Ireland, whereas childminders and nursery nurses are in short supply in Scotland.

The MAC has recommended that regular scheduled reviews should take place in respect of the Shortage Occupation Lists going forward, rather than such lists only being reviewed when the MAC are commissioned to do so. It has been suggested that a minor review of all lists should take place annually, with a major review to take place every three years. This is welcome news given that once the new points-based immigration system comes into force in January 2021, it will no doubt highlight further areas that might experience labour shortages given the end of free movement.

For more information on any of the items raised in this article please contact either Lynne Adams or Gemma Hill on our Employment team.