With exactly one year until Brexit, construction employers in the UK are praising the quality of their EU workers and encouraging them to stay, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).
The key findings from the FMB’s research on how the bosses of small and medium-sized (SME) construction firms view their EU workers includes: 94% of firms describe the quality of EU workers they employ as ‘good’ or ‘very good’; 85% of construction SME employers that employ EU workers say that these workers are important in allowing their business to maintain and expand its workforce; and 76% of these firms say it would have a negative impact on the health of their business if any of the EU workers they employ returned to their country of origin, now or post-Brexit.
Earlier this week the Migration Advisory Committee’s Interim update set out the concerns and evidence which construction and a wide range of industries had presented. Currently over 8% of construction workers are from the EU, and in London this rises to a third. Recent FMB research shows that skills shortages across construction are already at a record high, and shortages could worsen if access to skilled EU workers is restricted.
Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “With exactly a year to go until ‘Brexit Day’, our research demonstrates the extent to which the UK construction industry values its EU workers. More than 90% of firms describe the quality of their EU workers as ‘good’ or ‘very good’. What’s more, three-quarters of firms that employ EU workers think it would have a negative impact on the health of their business if these individuals returned to their country of origin, now or post-Brexit. The UK construction sector is more reliant than most on migrant workers from Europe – at present, 9% of our construction workers are from the EU. In London, this rises for nearly one third. Given the severity of the skills shortages we already face, retaining these workers is business-critical.
“Our research sends a strong and positive message from the construction industry to its EU workers. We’re now calling on the Government to step up and help us convince our EU workers that they are needed and warmly welcome. Ministers recently announcement that those who have lived in the UK for five years, or those who arrive from the EU during the transition period, will be able to apply for settled status. This is a huge step in the right direction, and what we were calling for, yet we question how well the Government has communicated the news. We’re already seeing EU workers return home for financial reasons, or simply because they don’t feel welcome, so time is of the essence. The Government and the industry must do all that they can to put positive messages across to our vital and highly-valued EU workers.”