Shortage Occupation List
reviewed by MAC

On 29 September, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) published a review of the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) and recommended a number of occupations that should be added to the list to relieve pressure when Freedom of Movement ends.

Senior care workers and nursing assistants are among the roles that should be added according to the report’s recommendations, whilst other skilled occupations including butchers, bricklayers and welders are also in shortage and could be filled by overseas workers if added to the UK-wide list.

The MAC, an independent body which provides evidence-based advice on migration issues, was commissioned by the Government to review the SOL and advise on which medium-skill occupations should be included ahead of 1 January 2021, when the UK introduces its new points-based immigration system.

What is the Shortage Occupation List?

The Shortage Occupation List shows occupations where UK employers face a shortage of suitable labour in the resident market, and where it is sensible to fill those shortages with migrant workers.

Occupations on the list are then subject to more favourable immigration arrangements, enabling employers to access a wider pool of suitably skilled workers more quickly. For an occupation to be eligible for inclusion on the SOL, it must be:

  • Skilled at the required level set by the government
  • In ‘shortage’, in that the demand for labour is higher than the supply
  • Considered ‘sensible’ to fill this shortage with migrant workers

All occupations are eligible for inclusion on the UK-wide SOL, but also on SOLs specific to the devolved nations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Impact of the new points-based system

From January 2021, the new Skilled Worker route will replace the current Tier 2 (General) category as the main immigration route for skilled workers. The lowering of the skills and salary thresholds under the new Skilled Worker route means that many more occupations have become newly eligible for inclusion on the Shortage Occupation List.

Under the new route, the skill threshold has been lowered from RQF6 (degree level) to RQF3 (A-Level or equivalent). Similarly, the lowering of the general salary threshold has been reduced from £30,000 to £25,600. These factors combined mean that 151 occupations at skill levels RQF3-5 are now eligible for the Skilled Worker route and therefore will be considered by the MAC for inclusion on the list.

However, lower skilled roles below RQF3 remain ineligible for the SOL as they are not part of the Skilled Worker route.

What are the recommendations?

Of the 151 medium-skill occupations identified by the MAC as newly eligible for the SOL, around 20 entire occupations or job titles within them at this level have been recommended for inclusion on the list. Examples of these include:

  • Nursing auxiliaries and assistants
  • Residential, day and domiciliary care managers and proprietors
  • Senior care workers
  • Butchers
  • Bricklayers and masons.

The MAC also recommended occupations to be added to the separate lists for all of the devolved nations. This includes fishmongers, bakers and horticultural workers for Northern Ireland, childminders and nursery nurses for Scotland and health professionals for Wales. A full list of the UK-wide and devolved nations SOL recommendations can be viewed in the report here.

The MAC committee also warned that low wages in social care meant that most frontline roles in the sector are not eligible for the Skilled Worker route and therefore not eligible for the SOL. The authors have called for salary increases in the sector to make social care jobs more attractive to UK workers rather than relying on migrant labour, particularly during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The report proposes that going forward, a minor review of the lists should take place annually, with a major review taking place every three years.

Be Aware, Be Prepared

The UK’s immigration system is changing. Employers and applicants alike should be aware of how the new rules will impact their immigration goals, and prepare accordingly.

Smith Stone Walters is here to offer professional, up to date advice and practical support on all immigration matters for businesses and individuals. For an initial consultation, please contact an advisor on 0208 461 6660, or email

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