The Government recently announced that it intends to update the minimum salary thresholds for occupations as set out in the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) Codes. The changes are expected to be implemented with effect from 6 April 2014.

The updated thresholds are in line with changes in average weekly earnings and will result in the minimum salary threshold for Tier 2 (General) being increased to £20,500. Restricted certificates of sponsorship granted before 6 April 2014 should assigned by 5 April 2014, otherwise the sponsor will need to ensure that the salary for the role is in line with the figure set out in the applicable revised SOC Code.

Other changes expected to come into force on 6 April 2014 include the following:

  • An exemption from the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) for employees of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) returning from a period of academic leave. This will provide additional flexibility for HEIs in the recruitment and retention of academic staff. 
  • An extension of the temporary exemption from the RLMT requirement to advertise via JobCentre Plus for NHS positions advertised on NHS Jobs. The exemption was due to expire on 6 April 2014, but has been extended to 1 October 2014.
  • Tier 2 applicants will be able apply for 5 years’ leave to remain (rather than the current initial maximum period of 3 years) on payment of a higher application fee. 
  • The maximum civil penalty for negligently employing an illegal worker will be increased from £10,000 to £20,000. The maximum penalty is likely to be applied only in the most serious of cases.

Sponsors should also ensure they submit their requests for annual allocations of unrestricted Tier 2 (General) and Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) certificates of sponsorship for the next allocation year - which commences on 6 April 2014 – as soon as possible. Failure to do so could result in delays in assigning unrestricted certificates of sponsorship (e.g. for extension applications, or where migrants are switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2 (General)).