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Changes to UK immigration policy: what employers need to know

On 4 December, the UK Home Secretary announced measures to slash migration to the UK.

On 4 December, the UK Home Secretary announced measures to slash migration to the UK.

The most significant change was an increase in salary threshold for Skilled Workers from £26,200 to £38,700. This rise is almost 50% and is higher than the average for full-time workers in the UK (£34,963).

The government has asked the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to compile an Immigration Salary Discount List (ISDL), replacing the Shortage Occupation List (SOL). These will be the occupations that will be exempt from the higher salary threshold.

The changes in salary will not apply to health and care workers, who have made up nearly 70% of migrant workers since the reforms in January 2021.

Care workers can no longer bring dependants, unless they meet the £38,700 threshold. In addition, care providers in England will now only be able to sponsor migrant workers if they are undertaking activities regulated by the Care Quality Commission.

Dependants of British citizens and people settled in the UK will also need to meet a £38,700 income requirement, over twice the previous level of £18,600.

The government has also asked the MAC to review the Graduate route to prevent its abuse.

The changes are not yet in force but will come into place in Spring 2024. There is a lot hanging on the ISDL. The MAC will come under pressure from the government to make the list as small as possible. It will only provide recommendations, but ultimately it is those in power who make the final decisions.

Employers who currently employ migrant workers in roles on the SOL shouldn’t take for granted that those will carry across to the ISDL. Indeed, there will no longer be a 20% going-rate salary discount for shortage occupations. Those with acute shortages only have a few months to make use of the current system.

The changes carry workforce challenges for employers, especially in social care. Employers can use strategic workforce planning to assess business drivers and goals, formulate contingency plans and address challenges such as labour costs and skills shortages.

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