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Government seeks skills shortage intelligence from business community

12 June 2020: ICAEW members have been urged to submit observations on the biggest skills gaps across the UK labour market as part of a fundamental review of the shortage occupation list.

The shortage occupation list (SOL) maps out occupations where employers face a shortage of suitable labour and where it may be necessary to fill those shortages with migrant workers. As such, it is a crucial part of the points-based immigration system set to come into force in January 2021. 

The government’s Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) Shortage occupation list: call for evidence will focus on organisations' views on the roles that are being filled by migrant workers, the salaries they are paid and the implications of potential changes.

The coronavirus outbreak has added urgency to this call, and to that end, the MAC has created several options for businesses to provide more limited evidence or register that they would have responded in different circumstances.

It follows the government’s commissioning of MAC to fulfil that brief in March 2020, with a view to reporting its findings in September 2020.

“We appreciate that the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has placed businesses in an enormously difficult situation and that organisations that would normally respond to the call for evidence may not currently have capacity to do so,” it said in a GOV.UK statement.

The request, which closes on 24 June 2020, aims to garner intelligence from the business community in order to consider what medium-skill occupations requiring RQF 3-5 qualifications (A-levels and equivalents), should be added to a UK-wide list of occupations in shortage.

The SOL comprises occupations and job titles deemed to be in shortage either across the UK or in Scotland where it would be “sensible to fill through migration”. 

Points-based system

The SOL is likely to play an important role within the new points-based immigration system which is set to come into force in January 2021. 

The government’s current immigration plans state that an application will have to meet a total of 70 points to be eligible, with 20 points allocated for a job being on the SOL. 

Additionally, an SOL occupation lowers the salary threshold requirements for employers by 20%.

Other benefits of job titles being on the SOL are lower visa fees, while migrants sponsored in SOL roles are exempt from having to meet a higher salary threshold before being able to apply for settlement. However, the “nature and extent of these additional benefits under the future points-based system have not been confirmed”, the policy statement cautions with a caveat.

Due to current COVID-19 restrictions, the MAC says it is unable to respond, “within normal timescales to any correspondence sent by post” and asks for any questions regarding the call for evidence, to be emailed to: MAC@homeoffice.gov.uk.