UNITED KINGDOM – Immigration Salary List Recommendations

March 11, 2024

The UK Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) recently released their report analyzing the UK government’s planned changes to the Skilled Worker (SW) immigration category. The MAC was commissioned to assess the April 2024 replacement of the current Shortage Occupation List (SOL) with the new Immigration Salary List (ISL). 

Please note that these are simply recommendations from the MAC and have not yet been officially adopted by the UK government. Accepted recommendations are anticipated to be reflected in the upcoming Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules, which is expected to be released on 14 March 2024. 

Scheduled 4 April 2024 changes to the Skilled Worker route 

First announced on 4 December 2023, the UK government announced their intention to implement the following changes to the Skilled Worker immigration route: 

  • That the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) be replaced with the Immigration Salary List (ISL); 
  • Abolishing the 20% ‘going rate’ discount, previously a benefit of placing an occupation on the SOL; 
  • SW route (except Health & Care worker (H&CW) visa): 
    • General threshold raised from GBP £26,200 to £38,700. This is an increase from the 25th to 50th percentile (median) of eligible SW occupations alongside an update to the latest nominal wage data (Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE)); 
    • Raising the occupation-specific thresholds from the 25th percentile to the 50th percentile (median) full-time salary of the occupation for non-H&CW occupations or the national pay scale where applicable; and, 
    • For occupations on the ISL, a threshold of either GBP £30,960 or their occupation-specific threshold, whichever is higher. 
  • Health & Care Worker Visa: 
    • An exemption recognising the public value and as stated by the government to “continue to bring the healthcare workers that our care sector and NHS need”; 
    • General threshold of GBP £29,000 rather than £38,700, which continues to be the 25th percentile of salaries uprated to the latest data; 
    • Occupation-specific thresholds set at the 25th percentile or the national pay scale where applicable; and, 
    • For occupations on the ISL, a threshold of either GBP £23,200 or their occupation-specific threshold, whichever is higher.

What are the MAC recommendations? 

At a high-level, the MAC has made the following recommendations in this rapid review of current SOL roles: 

  • Recommendation for 21 roles to be included in the ISL – 18 of which apply across the United Kingdom and three of which apply only in Scotland. This represents a significant decrease from the current SOL. 
  • Recommendation that the UK government should provide clarification on the benefits and long-term purposes of the ISL. 
  • Recommendation that the ISL should be systematically reviewed on an annual basis and salary thresholds updated in line with ASHE data. 
  • Note of the widening divide between public and private sectors may be exacerbated due to increased salary demands in the private sector and threshold exemptions for publicly-funded roles. 
  • In their 2023 review of the SOL the MAC had recommended the removal of the 20% discount to the going rates due to concerns that in allowing employers to receive a 20% discount on the going rate that was set at the 25th salary percentile this could lead to the undercutting of domestic workers and exploitation of migrants.  
  • The 2023 MAC recommendation to abolish the 20% ‘going rate’ discount was accepted by the government, however the plan to redefine the going rate required for sponsorship to the 50th percentile substantially weakens the rationale for not being able to pay below the occupation salary threshold (known formerly as the going rate) as half of all workers in a given occupation will earn less than the median wage and this does not obviously lead to undercutting an exploitation. The MAC encourages the government to consider the impact of the rules changes and what the appropriate benefits of the ISL should be. 
  • Response to the government announcement that the new entrant discount will continue (this currently provides a 30% discount on the occupation specific threshold and a 20% discount on the general salary threshold): The MAC anticipate that there will be an increased incentive on employers to utilise this discount as a result of the higher salary thresholds and encourage the government to consider the impact of the rule changes on the new entrant discount. 

The full MAC report can be accessed here.

Finally, please note the MAC will likely be commissioned to undertake a full and more thorough review of the new ISL later this year; however, details of this have not been announced. 

Newland Chase Insights 

It is important to note that the MAC recommendations must be reviewed and either accepted or rejected by the UK government. As such, UK employers should continue to follow current immigration policies.  

That being said, the UK government historically implements major changes to their immigration policies in April of each year and it is anticipated that 2024 will be no different. Clients should continue to closely monitor the announcements from the UK authorities and immigration updates from Newland Chase to remain abreast of the news. 

The next planned announcement from the UK authorities is scheduled for 14 March 2024.

This immigration update is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for legal or scenario-specific advice. Furthermore, it is important to note that immigration announcements are subject to sudden and unexpected changes. Readers are encouraged to reach out to Newland Case for any case- or company-specific assessments.