Can the shortage occupation list help the care sector to respond to workforce shortages?

23 Dec 2021

The government has launched a huge domestic recruitment campaign to fill more than 100,000 empty roles in England’s ailing social care sector, amidst many care home owners reporting a rise in the number of EU workers leaving the UK or moving to higher paid jobs in the hospitality sector. The majority of the adult social care workforce is British, but according to Care England over 100,000 jobs were occupied by EU nationals and well over 100,000 jobs by people from other non-EU countries.

The government has already been forced to open up a new immigration route to respond to the truck driver shortage, but has so far resisted the call from the care home sector to lift its post Brexit visa restrictions on low paid foreign workers for the sector, to help ease the crisis.  
Care England has also asked government ministers to reduce the qualifying salary level for overseas staff and to add care workers to the existing shortage occupation list.
The migration advisory committee (MAC) is due to assess the impact on adult social care of ending freedom of movement after Brexit, and is expected to report back in April 2022, but what can employers in the sector do in the meantime to address the problem will filling vacancies?
If recruiting domestically isn’t working, then this has to start with an understanding of the current offering in the Immigration system that was re-launched in 2021, and effectively replaced free movement for citizens from the European Economic Area (EEA).

Points-based visa sponsorship for work

The vast majority of workers seeking the right to work in the UK will come through the points-based system (70 points) for Skilled Worker visas. It applies for those entering the UK from any part of the world.

A job offer from a UK employer with a sponsor licence issued by UK Visas & Immigration is required, so obtaining a licence gives the UK employer the opportunity to attract staff from anywhere in the world.  

Skill level requirements

To be eligible for Skilled Worker sponsorship, the role will need to appear on the list of eligible occupations in either the ‘Skilled Occupations’ or ‘Shortage Occupation List’ appendices to the Immigration Rules.

Possible care sector roles/pay

Currently the system can facilitate the sponsorship of variety of roles that might be required in the care sector. This includes senior care workers, social workers, care managers, and auxiliary nurses and assistants.
As they all feature on the current shortage occupation list, the minimum pay requirements associated with eligibility for visa sponsorship may also be reduced. For example, visa applicants for several of the above roles may be paid 80% of the ‘going rate’ for the occupation code. By way of example, at the time of writing the standard ‘going rate’ for a Care Manager is £26,700 (based on a 39-hour working week), but shortage occupation status brings this down to £21,360.
There remains though, an absolute minimum pay requirement (which cannot be reduced pro rata) of £20,480 and £10.10 an hour, for any role that is to be filled by a sponsored Skilled Worker.

English language

All such workers must speak English to an acceptable standard, earning them 50 points. This can be demonstrated by the individual through the passing of a test or by reference to qualifying evidence of studies undertaken in English. 

Next steps

The shortage occupation list as well as the Skilled Worker occupation codes may be open to expansion following the MAC report in the spring of 2022 and if/when focus shifts away from the current vaccination mandate.
These shortages are not going away anytime soon though, and the workforce challenges may well grow. Ultimately, attracting migrant workers is a key tool that can facilitate the provision of safe and high-quality care for our elderly population.
You may want to consider the possibility and advantages of your business utilising visa sponsorship and any current or future concessions, for example by reference to the shortage occupation list. We can assist you in evaluating your business’ eligibility for visa sponsorship and guide and support you with discuss employment requirements to offer you a tailored solution.
The Immigration Team at DMH Stallard is ranked and recognised for their expertise in the most recent 2022 edition of the leading legal directory, Legal 500. For more information on our immigration services for businesses contact a member of our Immigration Team

You can also sign up to our immigration mailing list to receive regular updates on immigration law issues and invitations to our webinars and events.

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