How to employ low skills workers in post Brexit UK

Until 31 December 2020 it was possible for an EU national to arrive in the UK to intend to live and work visa free and to do any kind of work. People from the rest of the world need a visa to be able to live and work visa free and then they are limited to the kind of work of work they can do. Till 31 December 2020, it needed to be highly skilled work – RQF6, the equivalent of degree standard.

From 1 January 2021 it is a brave new visa world. EU nationals arriving, with the exception of the Irish who do not need a visa, are now treated in exactly the same way as the rest of the world. A visa is required and the type of job they can do must be at a skilled level – RQF3, the equivalent of A level standard. There is also the shortage occupation list (SOL). SOL is an official list of occupations deemed important for which there are not enough resident workers to fill vacancies. The key benefit is lower salary thresholds.

Low skills jobs are not eligible for a work visa. Examples of low skill jobs – RFQ1 and 2 – include carers of the elderly, hotel and restaurant staff. None of these are on the SOL because they are not at RFQ3 skill level or above.
Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) in March 2020 to review the SOL in advance of 1 January 2021. The MAC report recommended 70 new job titles be added to the SOL including nursing auxiliaries and assistants; residential, day and domiciliary care managers.

Usually, MAC recommendations are accepted by the Government and introduced into law. Not this time. In a surprise, Ms Patel stated in October 2020 the Government had decided not to immediately accept any of the recommendations contained in the MAC’s SOL report. The Home Secretary stated that before changing the SOLs, there should be an assessment of the development and recovery of the UK labour market after the coronavirus crisis and in response to the new Points-Based Immigration System.

So if you want to employ a low skills worker who is not a UK national, how can you do it?

There are the following options:

1 Employ an Irish national
2 Employ the dependent spouse of a migrant sponsored under Tier 2 who is here to fulfil a skilled role
3 Employ an EU national who arrived on or before 31 December 2020 and who has applied or is applying before 30 June 2021 for EU Settlement Scheme
4 Use the Youth Mobility scheme visa. Nationals from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Monaco, San Marino aged between 18 and 30 can come for 2 years.
5 From summer 2021, the new Graduate Visa route will allow international students who have completed a UK degree to stay in the UK for two years after they have completed their studies.

And there is the seasonal worker visa (tier 5) for up to 6 months for farm work.

It does in our opinion seem highly likely that the Government will have to introduce a Low Skills visa eventually. A tier (tier 3) already exists for it, it just hasn’t ever been used. King Canute commanded the tide not to wet his feet and we know what happened there – reality.

Tom Redfern