The Shortage Occupation List – Are You in Demand?

According to a report published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) earlier this month, UK employment is in its biggest decline in more than four years, with a plunge in the number of job vacancies. The report indicates the number of people in work declined by 58,000, to 32.75 million, in the last quarter. The falling number of people working in retail and recent high street store closures significantly contributed to the drop in employment.

Oddly, despite the falling number of people in work, the number of unemployed for the period also fell by 23,000, to 1.31 million.

It is no surprise that with Brexit looming, there is a decline in the number of EU nationals wanting to work in the UK. An ONS spokesperson reported “the number of EU nationals in work was very little changed on the year, with almost all the growth in overseas workers coming from non-EU nationals.”

Earlier this year, the Migration Advisory Committee (‘MAC’) published its recommendations to broaden the types of roles on the Shortage Occupation List (‘SOL’), which the Government has since adopted. The SOL is a list of jobs considered to be in national shortage in the UK.  The SOL has been amended to incorporate new roles and remove others, with a view to making it easier for employers to sponsor non-European workers to work in these roles. The changes take effect with Certificates of Sponsorship (‘CoS’) issued on and after 6th October 2019. Following these changes, around 9% of jobs in the UK now fall within the SOL.

Key changes in the recent Shortage Occupation List

  • New occupations have been added to the SOL, including veterinarians, architects and web designers, all IT business analysts, architects and systems designer roles and all programmer and software development professional roles;
  • A small number of roles have been removed from the list, such as pharmacists, dentists and directors in mining and energy;
  • A significant number of Standard Occupational Classification (‘SOC’) codes already on the SOL, but only for limited types of jobs, have been extended to cover all jobs falling within that SOC code.  For example, many more engineering and health professional roles are now within the SOL; and
  • The restriction preventing chefs from working for a sponsor that provides takeaway services has been removed.

Advantages of jobs on the Shortage Occupation List

  • Sponsors are not required to satisfy the Resident Labour Market Test (‘RLMT’) (with the exception of nursing jobs);
  • If the monthly allocation of Tier 2 (General) restricted CoS is reached in any particular month (based on the annual limit of 20,700), applicants for roles on the SOL are prioritised;
  • Jobholders whose occupations are on the SOL are exempt from the relevant Tier 2 (General) earnings threshold when they apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain; and,
  • If a job falls under the SOL, the applicant and his family will pay lower visa application fees.  

The fact that the government has accepted and acted upon the MAC’s recommendations in relation to shortage occupations is good news to employers who struggle to recruit in particular sectors, especially in healthcare, IT and engineering.

Restaurants wishing to sponsor chefs under Tier 2 are undoubtedly happy that the restriction preventing chefs from working for a sponsor that provides a takeaway service has been removed.  

Employers will need to stay up to date on all changes to the SOL and free movement after Brexit. The MAC has suggested the SOL could become redundant after Brexit, but it is unclear how the Government will replace it. The expansion of the SOL evidences how employers are struggling to recruit in key skilled industries and a skills-based criterion may be a better solution.

If you are an employer or a worker in need of employment or immigration advice, get in touch with us today on 0203 146 3549 /


All our articles are intended for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information provided.

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