Working in the UK

Which SOC Code Applies to Skilled Occupations

Navigating the complex landscape of skilled occupations can intimidate employers and recruiters. One crucial element in this process is identifying the appropriate Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code that applies to specific skilled occupations.

The SOC code is a standardised system for categorising and classifying different roles and professions. Understanding which SOC code corresponds to a particular skilled occupation is essential for streamlining recruitment efforts, ensuring accurate job descriptions, and complying with regulatory requirements.

This article will delve into the intricacies of SOC codes and explore how they can be effectively applied to various skilled occupations. By gaining clarity on this subject, employers and recruiters can enhance their hiring processes, improve communication with job seekers, and facilitate a more efficient and informed talent acquisition strategy.

SOC code

Table of Contents

What are SOC Codes?

SOC codes, or Standard Occupational Classification codes, are a standardised system for classifying and categorising different occupations. They provide a consistent and organised way of organising jobs based on their tasks, responsibilities, skills, and qualifications required. SOC codes are typically used by government agencies, researchers, employers, and recruiters to facilitate data analysis, workforce planning, and job matching. 

Each occupation is assigned a unique alphanumeric code representing its specific category and subcategory within the classification system. SOC codes are regularly updated to adapt to changes in the labour market and emerging professions, ensuring the relevance and accuracy of occupational classifications.

The occupation codes are used to identify the relevant going rate and salary threshold for each job, both at ‘new entrant’ and ‘experienced’ rates, and provide details such as example job titles associated with that specific occupation code.

Only occupations featured on this list can qualify for the Skilled Worker or ICT routes. With the relevant SOC code selected, the employer can assign the applicant a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS).

Examples of how SOC codes are used in practice:

  1. Recruitment and Job Postings: When advertising job vacancies, employers often include the corresponding SOC code to provide clarity and accuracy about the nature of the role. This helps potential applicants better understand the job requirements and qualifications necessary for the position.
  2. Immigration and Visa Applications: SOC codes are crucial in immigration and visa applications, particularly for sponsored workers. Employers must accurately assign the appropriate SOC code to the role they are recruiting for to comply with immigration regulations. This ensures that the Home Office and immigration authorities can adequately assess the job’s sponsorship and visa issuance eligibility.
  3. Workforce Planning and Labor Market Analysis: Governments, labour market researchers, and policymakers utilise SOC codes to analyse and understand trends in the labour market. By aggregating data based on SOC codes, they can identify skill shortages, assess employment growth in specific occupations, and develop targeted workforce development strategies.
  4. Salary Benchmarking and Compensation: SOC codes are often used as a reference point for salary benchmarking and compensation analysis. Employers can compare their job roles against industry standards and regional averages to ensure their salary offerings remain competitive and aligned with market expectations.
  5. Training and Skill Development: SOC codes are valuable in identifying the skills and competencies required for specific occupations. Training providers and educational institutions use SOC codes to design and deliver targeted programs that align with the needs of various industries and occupations. Job seekers can also use SOC codes to identify relevant training opportunities to enhance their employability.

Understanding how SOC codes are practically employed in these contexts underscores their significance in workforce management, regulatory compliance, and talent acquisition. By utilising SOC codes, employers, recruiters, and policymakers can effectively make informed decisions, streamline processes, and foster a more efficient and productive labour market.

Using the wrong Occupation Code

An incorrect SOC code assigned to a visa application or during the hiring process can have significant implications and potentially lead to several issues:

  1. Visa Application Rejection: When applying for a sponsored visa, allocating the correct SOC code that accurately represents the job role is crucial. Immigration authorities rely on SOC codes to assess the position’s eligibility for sponsorship. If an incorrect SOC code is provided, it may lead to visa application rejection, causing delays, additional costs, and potential disruptions to business operations.
  2. Compliance and Legal Consequences: Misrepresenting the SOC code can result in non-compliance with immigration and employment regulations. Employers are required to provide accurate and transparent information regarding the job role and its corresponding SOC code. Incorrect allocation can lead to legal consequences, penalties, and even loss of sponsor license, tarnishing the organisation’s reputation.
  3. Skill Shortage Exemption: Certain visa categories, such as the Skilled Worker visa in the UK, provide exemptions or concessions for occupations facing skill shortages. These exemptions are often tied to specific SOC codes. Assigning an incorrect SOC code may result in the applicant missing out on such exemptions, potentially affecting their eligibility for a visa or hindering the hiring process for the employer.
  4. Audit and Investigation: Immigration authorities have the right to conduct audits and investigations to ensure compliance with immigration rules. The accuracy of SOC codes assigned to sponsored positions may be scrutinised in such cases. If an incorrect SOC code is identified, it may trigger further investigations, potential fines, and reputational damage for the sponsoring organisation.
  5. Employee Mobility and Career Development: SOC codes serve as a standard classification system across various industries and countries. Assigning an incorrect SOC code to an employee’s role can hinder their mobility and career progression. It may impact their ability to apply for certain visas, transfer between employers, or pursue further education or training opportunities linked to specific SOC codes.

The rules require sponsors to provide correct information and only to assign a CoS where you intend to employ the individual per the application details (or in any related sponsor note). Matching the wrong occupation code can lead to unwanted issues with the Home Office. Whether you sponsor from within the UK or overseas, the implications are the same.

If issues with the SOC code come to light as part of the employee’s visa application, the Home Office can refuse the application for failure to meet the visa requirements. This may mean making a new visa application with a corrected code, in which case, you would have to outlay again for the Immigration Skills Charge, Health Surcharge and the visa application itself.

If the sponsor initially provided a shortage occupation code and paid the lower application fee, and if the Home Office subsequently determines that an incorrect code was used and the role is a non-shortage occupation, the sponsor will be required to pay the fee difference before the application can proceed.

If the wrong code is selected and found to have been a genuine error, it may be possible to rectify the mistake. However, the Home Office can investigate further and, depending on their findings, may take enforcement action against the organisation by, for example, suspending the sponsor licence.

In any event, an incorrect code will inevitably result in delayed processing. This may be particularly frustrating if the sponsor has paid the Priority Service fee (£500). if the Home Office has processed the application within the 5-7 working day standard but then requested further information, which delays, processing, or a refund of the priority processing is unlikely since the Home Office have met their part of the service within the time-frame.

If the Home Office determines the sponsor had provided false information, they may take action to revoke the organisation’s licence.

How the Home Office Investigates Codes

The caseworker can check against the job title/description and codes to ensure the correct code has been selected and the correct fee has been paid. They have powers to investigate the codes provided within the application by examining information such as:

  • Role – Has the employer assigned the CoS for the same job or a job other than the one described in the CoS application?
  • Salary – Does the record show that the stated salary on the application matches what is being paid?
  • Skill level – has the appropriate occupation code been used to meet the skill level?

Caseworkers have access to the Sponsor Management System and can check against the information given on the application form and the assigned CoS. They can also request to review documents such as the worker’s employment contract and job description. They can also interview the sponsored worker to verify the actual responsibilities of the job.

If they dispute whether the code chosen is the most relevant for the role, they can ask why it was selected when another code might be more suitable.

Finding the Right Occupation Code

Finding the right occupation code requires careful research and consideration. Selecting the most accurate code to ensure compliance, proper job matching, and successful visa applications.

To find the right occupation code, follow these steps:

  1. Research: Start by researching the occupation and understanding its nature, tasks, and required skills. Consider job descriptions, industry standards, and relevant occupational guidelines.
  2. Occupational Classification Resources: Utilise official occupational classification resources specific to your country or region. For example, you can refer to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook in the United States. You can use the UK Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system in the United Kingdom.
  3. Job Matching: Compare the job requirements, responsibilities, and qualifications of the occupation you are considering with the available occupational codes. Look for codes that closely align with the job description and the skills required.
  4. Cross-Reference: Cross-reference the job details with the occupational codes provided in the official classification resources. Pay attention to the code’s description and ensure it accurately represents the occupation you seek to classify.
  5. Seek Expert Advice: If you are unsure or need further assistance, consult with professionals in the field, such as recruiters, industry experts, or immigration advisors. They can provide guidance and help determine the most appropriate occupation code.
  6. Verify Regulatory Requirements: Consider any specific regulatory requirements or guidelines that may apply to your situation. Some industries or visa programs may have specific codes or procedures that need to be followed.

Many exceptions apply, so it is advisable to take professional guidance when uncertain.

SOC Codes & Recruitment strategies

When it comes to recruitment strategies, SOC codes can be beneficial in several ways:

  1. Job Advertisement: Including the relevant SOC code in job advertisements helps potential applicants understand the nature and requirements of the role more clearly. It enhances communication and attracts candidates with the appropriate skills and experience.
  2. Job Boards and Search Filters: Many job boards and recruitment platforms allow candidates to filter and search for positions based on SOC codes. By utilising SOC codes in your job listings, you ensure that your vacancies appear in relevant searches, targeting candidates with specific occupational interests.
  3. Targeted Candidate Sourcing: SOC codes enable recruiters to identify and target candidates with expertise in specific occupations. By searching for candidates using relevant SOC codes, recruiters can focus on individuals with the desired skills and qualifications.
  4. Skills Assessment and Screening: SOC codes provide a framework for assessing and screening candidates during recruitment. By aligning the job requirements with the associated SOC code, recruiters can effectively evaluate candidates’ skills and qualifications, ensuring a better match between the job and the candidate.
  5. Workforce Planning: SOC codes are valuable for long-term workforce planning. Analysing labour market data based on SOC codes helps organisations identify skill gaps, predict future talent needs, and develop strategic recruitment plans accordingly.
  6. Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives: SOC codes can be used to ensure diversity and inclusion in recruitment. By examining the distribution of occupations within an organisation and comparing it to workforce demographics, companies can identify potential gaps and implement strategies to promote diversity across different job roles.

It’s important to note that SOC codes are a reference point and should be used with other recruitment strategies and considerations. They provide a standardised framework to classify occupations and enhance the effectiveness of recruitment processes.

SOC code FAQs

SOC code stands for Standard Occupational Classification Code. It is a system that categorises different occupations based on their tasks, responsibilities, skills, and qualifications.

The need for an occupation code in a visa application varies depending on the country and visa program. It is often mandatory for sponsored or skilled worker visas. Occupation codes help immigration authorities evaluate job role eligibility and alignment with visa requirements. Reviewing specific guidelines provided by immigration authorities is crucial to determine if an occupation code is required.

Occupations from all across the economy are featured in the eligible occupations list in Appendix Skilled Occupations. The key criterion is that the role demands a skill level of RQ3 (A' level equivalent) or above.

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