On 28 January 2020, the Migration Advisory Committee (“MAC”) published its latest report in relation to the future, post-Brexit immigration system proposed to take effect from 2021. The MAC has recommended a single minimum salary threshold for experienced workers of £25,600 per annum, regardless as to sector, skill level or geographical location.
In December 2018, the MAC published a report on the impact of Brexit on the UK labour market and made a number of recommendations in relation to the post-Brexit immigration system. These recommendations included ending preferential treatment for European nationals and extending the Tier 2 sponsorship system to include European nationals. They also recommended reducing the skills threshold for roles eligible for sponsorship from RQF level 6 (highly skilled, professional or managerial roles) to RQF level 3 (medium-skilled roles). However, in that report the MAC recommended that the salary threshold should remain as £30,000 per annum. This was controversial as the vast majority of individuals undertaking medium-skilled roles are paid less than £30,000 per annum and, as such, would not qualify for sponsorship.
The government accepted most of the MAC’s proposals but the Home Secretary subsequently commissioned the MAC to revaluate the recommended minimum salary threshold.
The latest MAC report includes the following key recommendations:
- The Tier 2 sponsorship scheme framework should be retained as the primary route to hire employees with a job offer, including European workers;
- The minimum annual salary threshold for experienced workers should be reduced to £25,600 instead of £30,000;
- The minimum salary threshold for new entrants should be reduced to £17,600;
- No pro-rating of salaries for those working part-time;
- Expansion of the eligibility to be paid the lower salary as a new entrant and the ability to pay sponsored employees at this lower rate for 5 years, rather than 3 years;
- The Government should consider adding certain further roles to the list of RQF3 jobs so that more roles are regarded as medium skilled and are eligible for sponsorship in the future;
- The same salary thresholds should apply across the UK, with no regional salary variations and no variations for sector or skill level;
- The annual increase to minimum salary thresholds for settlement applications should be paused;
- The restriction on the ability to hold shares in a company under Tier 2 sponsorship should be reviewed; and
- The introduction of a new route for those who wish to come to the UK without a job offer with points to be awarded for certain attributes, which would be determined by the Government from time to time. The MAC proposed that there should be a cap on the number of people able to come to the UK under this route.
If the above recommendations are implemented, compared to free movement for EEA nationals and their family members, there is expected to be a lower level of immigration, population growth, employment and GDP post-Brexit. Employers are likely to find it harder to recruit in relation to certain roles, particularly in relation to low paid medium-skilled roles, such as in the social care sector. There is also no route proposed to enable overseas nationals to come to the UK on the long term basis to undertake low skilled work which will not qualify for Tier 2 sponsorship. This is likely to make recruitment particularly challenging for sectors such as catering, hospitality and retail. The MAC report recommends that the Government addresses this issue by creating a temporary immigration route for low skilled workers but this will not address all issues.
The proposals in relation to the points-based route for applicants without a job offer bear similarities to previous routes, including the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme and Tier 1 (General). How useful this route will be to employers and individuals very much depends on the details, including which attributes will be awarded points.
The MAC report is expected to be influential in the design of the UK’s post-Brexit immigration system. Further details are expected to be announced by the Government shortly.