What is the change? The Migration Advisory Committee has issued a call for evidence seeking comments from employers and other stakeholders to help determine which roles to include on a revised shortage occupation list.

What does the change mean? The feedback from employers will be used as evidence for the committee to make policy recommendations to the U.K. government about which occupations are accepted as being in national shortage and therefore may be filled by foreign nationals.

Key points: 

  • Employers are advised to complete the online form to assist the MAC in identifying which roles currently have a national labor shortage to better inform government policy.
  • Annex A and Annex B of the call for evidence are key. Annex A is for businesses, organizations and public sector employees; Annex B is for recruitment agencies, industry groups, think tanks and academic institutions.
  • The MAC has listed specific job titles rather than broad occupations, and employers are asked to identify specific roles that are experiencing shortages.
  • The call for evidence covers all occupations and job titles at RQF level 1 and above (the lowest skill level) to ascertain the extent of national shortages in the U.K. The call for evidence is thus not limited to senior, professional and technical roles that currently support Tier 2 visas.
  • The shortage occupation list only covers occupations and jobs in national shortage and not regional shortage—i.e., the shortage must be in the whole of the U.K., and not just in a specific local area.

Background: The shortage occupation list supports the U.K.’s current Tier 2 work permit regime. It is a fixed list of occupations and job titles that are deemed to be in national shortage, thus permitting employers to recruit workers to fill them from outside the U.K. Employers with vacancies on the list are not required to conduct a resident labor market test—i.e., prove the role has been advertised and no suitable resident worker is available—before issuing a Tier 2 certificate of sponsorship to support a visa.

As the U.K. is due to leave the European Union on March 29, 2019, and the rights of free movement for EEA nationals and their family members are set to end, the U.K. immigration system must be reconfigured to accommodate these nationals who did not previously require visas. The potential loss of access to this visa-free European labor force is of concern to many employers, and labor shortages could be acute in certain sectors that rely on lower-skilled migration, such as agriculture, retail, distribution and hospitality.

When the MAC was previously asked to look at the U.K.’s system post-Brexit, its June report on EEA migration recommended lowering the qualification level for Tier 2 visas to middle-level skill workers (RQF level 3 and above), to cover a greater number of roles, and therefore a greater number of people, including EEA nationals. While the shortage occupation list has previously included only highly skilled roles with a minimum (RQF level 6 and above), this call for evidence considers lower skilled roles as well (RQF level 1 and above) to try to achieve a full picture of the U.K.’s labor needs.

After the call for evidence closes on Jan. 6, the MAC may decide to meet with industry professionals to gather evidence in more detail. The MAC will use the evidence from national labor statistics in concert with evidence from the call for evidence in making its final report and recommendation on the shortage occupation list.

Analysis & Comment: Ensuring that the list is a true reflection of U.K. business needs is one of the ways that employers, particularly those anticipating shortages, can aim to safeguard their business. This consultation gives U.K. employers an opportunity to influence government policy by providing an evidence base for a widened shortage occupation list which recognizes more roles that are subject to shortages. Employers are strongly encouraged to provide feedback to the MAC by completing the online survey, and responses should be evidence-based and supported by data where possible. Employers have the option to provide additional information apart from the online survey. The deadline for submitting comments and evidence is Jan. 6.

Source: Deloitte LLP. Deloitte LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC303675 and its registered office at 1 New Street Square, London EC4A 3HQ, United Kingdom.