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Skilled Migrant Workers (Codes of Practice)

Volume 559: debated on Friday 1 March 2013

The Home Office is today announcing changes to the codes of practice for skilled migrant workers from outside the European economic area.

The codes of practice provide important information to migrant workers and their sponsoring employers. They set out which occupations are skilled to the necessary level to qualify for tier 2 of the points-based system, minimum appropriate rates of pay, and how employers should carry out a resident labour market test to determine whether suitable settled workers are available before they offer a job to a migrant worker.

Last year, the Government commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to review the codes of practice. The MAC published a detailed report on 17 October 2012. Today we are setting out the Government’s response to the MAC’s recommendations. In general we have accepted the MAC’s recommendations, although there are some additional details which have resulted from developing the proposals. Taken as a whole, the changes are intended to update the system and make it more user-friendly, rather than significantly change the policy.

On lists of skilled occupations, as advised by the MAC, we are updating the codes of practice from the old SOC 2000 classification system to the new SOC 2010 system. Transitional arrangements will ensure that no migrant worker is unable to continue working in their current job as a result of the reclassification.

On minimum salary requirements, we are updating the minimum appropriate rates for each occupation in line with the MAC’s recommendations and to reflect changes in pay for settled workers. We have accepted the MAC’s recommendation that the minimum should generally be set at the 25th percentile of wages in that occupation. We are introducing alternative rates for new entrants. These will be set at the 10th percentile of wages in each occupation. After three years the new entrant—usually these will be those aged 25 or under—will have to be paid at the experienced worker rate. In addition, we are updating the minimum pay thresholds which exist across tier 2 (regardless of occupation) in line with wage inflation for settled workers.

On the resident labour market test, we are, in line with the MAC’s recommendations, simplifying the current rules to give employers more freedom to advertise in the media they think are most likely to be successful for their sector. This will mean settled workers looking for jobs in that sector will be better targeted and will have more opportunities to apply for skilled jobs. We will still require most jobs to be advertised via a Jobcentre Plus online service (or JobCentre Online, for jobs based in Northern Ireland), but we will keep this requirement under review.

The changes will be implemented on 6 April and we will lay changes to the immigration rules nearer the time to bring them into effect. The Home Office is publishing a statement of intent today, in order to give employers and applicants as much time as possible to review the changes we are making and prepare for them coming into effect. I am placing a copy of the statement of intent in the Library of the House.