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Due to skill shortages, the UK government is relaxing visa restrictions for foreign workers in the construction industry. With new trades being added to the Shortage Occupation List, there’s hope these changes will boost productivity and help tradespeople get the staff they need.
But how will this work for business owners looking to hire from outside the UK? And will the changes be enough to solve the widespread shortage of skilled workers?
The Shortage Occupation List was created to support industries that are struggling with staff shortages by relaxing visa restrictions for foreign workers. This has now been expanded to include more professions, with a particular focus on construction and trade industries.
Workers from outside the UK that are eligible to apply will receive 80 per cent of the ‘going rate’ of their trade, while also getting a Skilled Worker visa and cheaper application fee.
Employers will need to give a sponsored job offer to a worker for them to apply. And the employee will also need to reach an English language requirement – meaning they should be able to speak, read, and write in English.
The following trades have been added to the Shortage Occupation List:
The list also states that “construction and building trades not elsewhere classified” are an option. So, if you don’t see your profession listed, it doesn’t mean it’s not included.
And as a reminder of some of the professions already included on the Shortage Occupation List:
And like with construction, it includes “engineering professionals not elsewhere classified” as an option, so if your business hires engineers, it’s likely to be included.
Be sure to check the Shortage Occupation List for the full details because the rates vary depending on the trade.
These changes are the government's response to national skills shortages. They initially introduced more relaxed visa restrictions for careers and healthcare workers in February 2022.
But the independent Migration Advisory Committee suggested in March 2023 that construction would benefit from more relaxed restrictions for foreign workers.
As we pointed out in our industry predictions article, skills and labour shortages have been a major issue in the construction industry that looked set to continue for quite some time. This is partly due to the loss of EU workers post-Brexit, but also a broader issue of an ageing workforce.
Making it easier for workers from outside the UK to get a visa should hopefully help employers fill the gaps in their workforce.
The new rules have been met with a mixed response. Some see it as a necessary step to cope with high-demand, while others feel it’s a short-term fix to a bigger problem.
The chief executive of Build UK, Suzannah Nichol, said: “It is vital that construction is able to fill vacancies and quickly address shortages around particular roles.
“We welcome the news that five occupations will be added to the shortage occupations list, which will help the industry continue to deliver the schools, homes, hospitals and infrastructure that we need.”
While others feel focusing on upskilling UK residents would be more worthwhile. MP of South Holland and The Deepings, Sir John Hayes, said: “The construction industry has a long history of offering apprenticeships” and that we “should be training up the British workforce.”
The overall aim, a Home Office spokesperson shared, is to “aid the delivery of key national infrastructure and stimulate growth for related industries”.
But after a difficult year, there’s reason for some optimism. Data from Construction Europe that predicts a 12 per cent recovery from the UK’s construction industry in 2024.
Productivity across construction has been reduced because of the skilled worker shortage. Government strategies to tackle the shortage could be part of the reason for the expected recovery.
Has your business experienced a labour shortage? Let us know in the comments below.
Zach Hayward-Jones is a Copywriter at Simply Business, with six years of writing experience across entertainment, insurance, and financial services. Zach specialises in covering small business and landlord insurance. He has a particular interest in issues impacting the hospitality industry after spending a number of years working as a pastry chef.
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