The Professional Qualifications Act (the Act) is now in force, having received Royal Assent on 28 April 2022. The Act brings in a new approach to recognising in the UK, certain professional qualifications gained overseas.
Since the UK left the EU, recognising professional qualifications overseas has been governed by retained EU law, which inherently treats qualifications gained in the EU, EEA, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein differently. The Act gives UK regulators the autonomy to decide whether an individual with overseas qualifications is fit to practise a regulated profession in the UK. This means that UK regulators can now recognise the qualifications of professionals across the world, rather than just the EU.
The Act creates powers to allow UK regulators to enter into regulator recognition agreements with their international counterparts. The Government’s aim is to strengthen the UK’s ability to negotiate and deliver ambitious trade deals, as they relate to professional qualifications, and to help UK professionals enter new markets abroad. In doing so, it is hoped that UK businesses will be in a position to export their services, providing a boost to the UK economy.
Labour Markets Minister Paul Scully said:
We’re freeing our professions from outdated EU arrangements so they can decide for themselves which individuals hold the qualifications, skills and experience to meet the UK’s high standards.
On the basis that the regulation of some professions is devolved, the Act provides for devolved authorities to make regulations within their devolved legislative competence. The Act also requires the Government to consult devolved authorities before making any regulations under the Act.
The Act has required the Government to set up an Assistance Centre for people looking to enter a profession in the UK, or people with a UK qualification looking to practise overseas. The UK Centre for Professional Qualifications has become the Assistance Centre.
The Professional Qualifications Bill was welcomed by the Law Society in November 2021, and in particular, the Government’s aims for regulator autonomy, and international cooperation between regulators.