The UK government has recently included bricklayers, plasterers, and other construction-related professions in the “shortage occupation list.” This move aims to alleviate labour shortages, which have been partially attributed to the impact of Brexit. As a result, foreign construction workers now have increased opportunities to come and work in Britain to address the workforce demand in the construction sector.

Visa Restrictions Relaxation

The UK government has implemented visa restrictions relaxation for several sectors grappling with significant worker shortages. Notably, they have included bricklayers and masons, roofers, roof tilers, slaters, carpenters, joiners, plasterers, and other construction workers, along with fishing jobs, to the list.

The Home Office expects that this decision will facilitate the execution of crucial national infrastructure projects and foster growth in related industries.

Individuals employed in shortage occupations have the advantage of being eligible for a skilled worker visa even if they receive 80% of the standard wage for that particular job. Moreover, they can benefit from a reduced application fee. To qualify for this visa, applicants must secure a job offer from an employer who is willing to sponsor them, and they must also meet the necessary English language proficiency requirements.

Construction Workers in Shortage Occupation List

In March, the independent migration advisory committee put forth a recommendation to include construction workers in the shortage occupation list. This list currently comprises care workers, engineers, web designers, laboratory technicians, and various healthcare roles.

By including these professions in the shortage occupation list, employers gain permission to hire staff from overseas with salaries as low as £14,880 for senior care workers and starting from £15,120 for laboratory technicians.

Following this decision, Rishi Sunak is likely to encounter additional criticism from Conservative Members of Parliament (MPs), as it contradicts the party’s pledge to reduce immigration. Since 2010, successive Conservative governments have made commitments to lower net migration.

In the past year, overall migration into the UK reached a historic high of 606,000, marking a substantial 24% increase compared to the previous year. Concurrently, the backlog of asylum cases has also reached an all-time peak, reflecting the significant challenges and pressures faced by immigration authorities in processing and resolving these cases.

Brexit Shortages

Brexit has worsened the situation for the construction industry in Britain, which has been facing worker shortages for an extended period. With the changes brought about by Brexit, EU citizens can no longer work in the UK without visas as they could before. Additionally, the Covid-19 pandemic played a role in aggravating the situation, as many EU workers chose to return to their home countries during this challenging period

Suzannah Nichol, the chief executive of Build UK, emphasized the critical importance of the construction industry being able to fill job vacancies promptly and effectively address shortages in specific roles.

“We warmly welcome the announcement that five occupations will be included in the shortage occupations list. This decision will play a pivotal role in assisting the construction industry in its ongoing efforts to deliver much-needed schools, homes, hospitals, and infrastructure projects.”

On the other hand, Sir John Hayes, a former minister and a close ally of Home Secretary Suella Braverman, expressed a different viewpoint. He stated to the Daily Telegraph that the government’s focus should be on “training up the British workforce” rather than relying on foreign workers to address labour shortages.