Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has announced measures to tackle immediate labour shortages in the construction industry as part of the Spring Budget 2023.
Prior to the Budget, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) was commissioned on 7 February 2023 to undertake a rapid assessment of the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) for the construction and hospitality industries, however, the independent advisory said it did not recommend the addition of roles within the hospitality sector to the list in an interim report.
In the report, the MAC said it had not received “substantial evidence which proves that shortage cannot be filled with domestic recruitment”. “For the few hospitality occupations at skill level RQF 3-5 in-scope, we do not feel that we have sufficiently clear evidence that these specific occupations are in shortage, or, that a lower salary threshold would be sensible,” the report said.
The MAC had previously considered RQF 3-5 roles in the hospitality sector in the 2020 SOL report, but did not recommend any addition of occupations from the hospitality sector to the SOL and recommended the removal of Chefs.
For the few hospitality occupations at skill level RQF 3-5 in-scope, MAC said “We do not feel that we have sufficiently clear evidence that these specific occupations are in shortage, or, that a lower salary threshold would be sensible. As a result, we do not recommend the addition of any occupations in the hospitality sector to the SOL.”
“We again paid particular attention to Chefs, as we did in the SOL 2020 report. Here there is clearer evidence of shortage, and the occupation is the major user within the hospitality sector of the immigration system. We reviewed the evidence that stakeholders provided regarding new training initiatives for chefs and welcome these developments. Less positively, there still appears to be little progress in improving terms and conditions, and in particular pay growth continues to be driven to a large extent by the statutory minimum wage. It is unclear how the sector foresees sustainable domestic recruitment and retention for this skilled occupation when wages remain so low. Overall, the MAC is not persuaded that our decision in 2020 to recommend the removal of Chefs from the SOL should be reversed.”
While the MAC did not suggest any additions to the SOL in relation to hospitality, five roles were recommended to be added in relation to the construction industry. The government has accepted these recommendations in full.
The following roles are expected to be added to the SOL before the summer recess:
- 5312 (Bricklayers and masons)
- 5313 (Roofers, roof tilers and slaters)
- 5315 (Carpenters and joiners)
- 5319 (Construction and building trades not elsewhere classified)
- 5321 (Plasterers)
The addition of these five professions will be advantageous to some licence-holding employers, and businesses in the construction industry. Addition to the shortage occupation list means that employers will benefit from reduced salary thresholds and application fees for these shortage occupation workers.
The MAC will conclude a full review of the SOL later this year and will complete regular reviews in the future, to ensure the immigration system is more agile and responsive to business needs. The success of this endeavour will largely depend on the government’s willingness to adopt recommendations, and only then will businesses see how successfully the government is delivering on its promise to grow the economy.