Should sommeliers be classified as skilled workers?

Sommeliers could be added to the skilled worker list for foreign nationals entering the UK for employment, following a recommendation to reclassify the role.

According to the Migration Advisory Committee — the independent body assessing how migrants can impact shortages in the UK labour market — sommeliers with more than three years full-time experience should be made eligible for skilled worker visas, and reclassified as a Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) Level 3 role. This would put the role at a similar level to advanced apprenticeships or A Levels.

But despite the news, the shortage occupation list (SOL), which allows firms to recruit from abroad to fill roles in the UK, is currently the only mechanism which the hospitality trade can access.

In its latest assessment earlier this month, the MAC did not add any hospitality roles, such as chefs, bar staff or sommeliers, to the list. However the MAC, which was making its first review since 2020, added it believed the SOL wasn’t fit for purpose, and should be radically reformed.

The desire for somms to be included in the skilled worker list comes after evidence that around 500 to 600 vacancies for the role currently exist in the UK.

Charlotte Wills, a partner at immigration services firm Fragomen, told db: “Sommeliers had previously not been considered for the UK’s skilled visa route and while the MAC has suggested a restriction on those will less than three years’ experience, the inclusion now recognises the skilled nature of the job. It now provides a pathway to utilise the skilled worker route for a role recognised to be in shortage.

“However, there will be disappointment that the SOL has not been expanded as so many business groups had called for, with many industry sectors facing a critical shortage of staff following post-Brexit restrictions on the movement of EU workers.

“We do not yet know how the Government will respond to the MAC’s recommendations, although historically it tends to accept them.”

Speaking about the new, Federica Zanghirella, vice-president of the UK Sommelier Association, told The Times that Brexit and the pandemic were the two main reasons restaurants and bars were struggling to hire sommeliers.

She said: “After Britain left the European Union, people went back to their homes in Europe, found jobs there and didn’t come back. If they did stay here then it has been long enough that they are now floor managers or restaurant managers and they are not doing the sommelier job any more. We don’t have anyone coming in at the junior level.”

The Times also spoke to Vincenzo Arnese, the director of wine at the Raffles, and who last year was Taittinger’s UK sommelier of the year. He said that is colleagues were “struggling”.

He said: “It’s not an easy task to find a whole team of sommeliers. In a restaurant you need a person to help you and bring you to wines that you wouldn’t otherwise try.”

Related news

“World’s best sommelier” swaps wine for whiskey

Kylie seeks wine somm to work with her

This article was originally published by the drinks business and has been shared with permission.

Leave your reply

Most Recent Stories

WLC Eats: Jin Sha at Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou at West Lake

Douglas Blyde takes a trip to the Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou, China. During his visit, head sommelier Olive Gao guides him through a list covering everything from lard-washed rice wine to tea.

The airline with an organic-only wine list

French boutique airline La Compagnie's exclusively-organic onboard wine list is designed to correspond with its "disruptive image", according to the company.

Kent vineyard battles opposition to wine tastings near graveyard

Nine Oaks Vineyard in Kent is seeking to allay concerns of local residents after facing opposition to its new licence to hold wine tastings, with villagers arguing that nearby mourners could be disturbed. WLC finds out more.

Analysis: a closer look at Majestic's acquisition of Vagabond Wine

Majestic's acquisition of Vagabond Wines, which was confirmed last week, is an interesting expansion for the well-known specialist retailer, particularly given the growth of its B2B business in recent years. WLC looks at what the deal may mean.

Michel Roux Jr to open new restaurant

Just a few months after he shut the doors of legendary Mayfair institution Le Gavroche, Michel Roux Jr will open a new restaurant at The Langham hotel this summer, with the menu taking inspiration from his childhood in Kent.

Most Recent Stories

WLC Eats: Jin Sha at Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou at West Lake

Douglas Blyde takes a trip to the Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou, China. During his visit, head sommelier Olive Gao guides him through a list covering everything from lard-washed rice wine to tea.

The airline with an organic-only wine list

French boutique airline La Compagnie's exclusively-organic onboard wine list is designed to correspond with its "disruptive image", according to the company.

Kent vineyard battles opposition to wine tastings near graveyard

Nine Oaks Vineyard in Kent is seeking to allay concerns of local residents after facing opposition to its new licence to hold wine tastings, with villagers arguing that nearby mourners could be disturbed. WLC finds out more.

Analysis: a closer look at Majestic's acquisition of Vagabond Wine

Majestic's acquisition of Vagabond Wines, which was confirmed last week, is an interesting expansion for the well-known specialist retailer, particularly given the growth of its B2B business in recent years. WLC looks at what the deal may mean.

Michel Roux Jr to open new restaurant

Just a few months after he shut the doors of legendary Mayfair institution Le Gavroche, Michel Roux Jr will open a new restaurant at The Langham hotel this summer, with the menu taking inspiration from his childhood in Kent.