We were rather alarmed upon recently discovering that Jobcentre Plus is now placing SOC Codes alongside the job vacancies it advertises, without always consulting employers first as to the accuracy of these Codes.
Tier 2 Sponsors who wish to recruit a non-EEA foreign national to work for them in a skilled role, where the salary package totals less than £150,000 per annum, must first satisfy the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT). This requires the sponsoring company to advertise the job vacancy in Jobcentre Plus (plus one other permitted advertising method) for a total of 28 calendar days. If no suitable British worker is found, the RLMT has been passed and the Sponsor may appoint a Tier 2 foreign national to perform the role.
Previously, SOC Codes were not placed within advertisements for vacant roles. However, it now seems that they have been deemed an obligatory part of the Jobcentre Plus advertisements. This is worrying because we are having reports of incorrect SOC codes being used, due to errors on the part of Jobcentre Plus. They do not appear to be seeking proper guidance on which Code to use before posting it and we feel that this could create problems for Tier 2 Sponsors in the future.
We have reviewed the Tier 2 Sponsor Guidance and it is certainly clear that there is currently nothing there which suggests that the UKBA will refer to the Jobcentre Plus SOC Code when conducting an audit, and penalise the Sponsor if, for example, this SOC Code is not found to match the Code used on the Certificate of Sponsorship (COS). Surely, then this means that there can be no breach established on the part of the employer, if the Jobcentre Plus has used an incorrect SOC Code on its advertisement? While this may currently be true, we feel that it is only a matter of time before UKBA Guidance is amended to confirm that all Jobcentre Plus adverts must contain the correct SOC Code.
This being the case, if Jobcentre Plus are allowed to continue using the incorrect Code, this will potentially have adverse consequences for employers, who may fall foul of UKBA should they detect inconsistencies between Codes on adverts and those on COS . They are quite likely to decide this is a breach of RLMT requirements (because if the correct SOC codes were used on the advert in the first place, more domestic workers may have applied for the position) and take punitive action against the employer!
We would like to advise that as good practice, all employers should ensure that the correct SOC Code is placed in the original Jobcentre Plus advertisement and that this is consistent with the SOC Code used in the Certificate of Sponsorship for the migrant worker. Employers should liaise with Jobcentre Plus on this matter, and we hope that this will avoid any unfortunate incidents down the line!