The past few years have been quite an ordeal for the UK. Not only did the country have to manage a departure from the European Union, but it did so in the middle of a global pandemic. Both Brexit and COVID-19 had a negative impact on the UK’s economy, including the construction industry.
Normally, finding construction workers isn’t a problem at all. However, both of these major events impacted workers in construction. They also affected the supply lines required for the work and how much money could go into various projects.
Here are the specifics on how workers and the UK construction industry were affected by Brexit and COVID-19.
Worker Shortages in the UK Construction Industry
The construction industry has always had its fair share of challenges in this country’s history.
For one, they’re dependent on global supply chains to get the materials to do their work. Over 83% of supply chain professionals consider ethics to be important for their business. However, many supply origins have poor working conditions, low salaries, and force labour.
There’s also the climate crisis to consider when operating in the UK. New building regulations force companies to change how they operate.
Brexit and COVID-19 are two of the latest challenges that are much harder to adjust for. Changes can easily be made to your supply chain or building regulations. It’s much harder to deal with a global pandemic or major shifts in your government.
Brexit Impact on the Industry
Despite public opinion about Brexit, many people fail to understand what it actually entails and how it can affect them. In short, Brexit is the departure of the UK from the European Union. The actual event occurred on January 31, 2020, though the government made the decision in 2016.
Every industry in the UK has been affected by Brexit due to economic impacts as well as manpower issues.
Worker shortages for construction jobs have occurred due to the changes in immigration. As of early 2021, free movement came to an end and EU citizens coming to work in the UK required a visa. Although employment grew in the years leading up to Brexit, it has dropped since the UK departed the European Union.
According to the ONS, the construction industry lost over a quarter of its workforce due to how many employees were EU nationals.
COVID-19 Impact on Construction Workers
Unlike Brexit, COVID-19 had much more of an immediate impact on construction workers. People would have to expose themselves to the virus to work in person. Many were also forced to have their groceries delivered to remove contact with other people.
As a result, many industries were put on hold in the hopes that a forced quarantine would kill the virus.
During the middle of the pandemic, construction workers were considered essential. Many new guidelines and protective measures were put into place to protect them while they went back to work, such as required masks and hand sanitizing stations.
Two years on, COVID-19 and some variants are still around. Despite the dangers, people needed to go back to work for society to function as before.
Total employment in construction fell in 2020. The number of registered construction companies increased, though. The pandemic would serve as a wake-up call for the industry to make some much-needed changes to continue its growth.
Mitigate Brexit Risk
There are some key areas that must be addressed if the construction industry wishes to mitigate some risk to its business and employees.
First of all, your business should assist employees to achieve settled and pre-settled status. Employers who are EEA nationals could apply for either status to allow them the right to live and work in the UK.
You should also review social security arrangements so that workers remain liable for UK social security contributions. You’ll want to review the new immigration system to remain compliant. Carry out an immigration audit to avoid any issues with your UK construction employment.
The Future of COVID-19 Regulations
Similarly, COVID-19 has brought about a wide range of changes in how worksites operate and are maintained.
Contractors have implemented staggered shifts and frequent disinfection of tools and equipment. Some companies have continued to allow remote work for certain roles to minimise human interaction.
Despite these changes, supply chain disruptions will continue to occur moving forward. Worker safety and the need for good workers’ compensation are two other important factors.
UK construction companies should also expect to take more time to complete their projects. Contractors will need to establish longer timeframes to account for staggered work shifts.
How to Find Workers in Construction
Before you start looking for new workers for construction jobs, make sure your workplace lives up to their expectations. A potential employee may have a sick or immunocompromised family member at home that they want to avoid giving COVID-19.
Take the worker shortages as an opportunity to identify new talent pools you can tap into. Look to different sectors for people who need work. Consider hiring more females who want the chance to break into the industry.
Give more responsibility to employees who speak a second language. They can help bridge the language gap and create a more inclusive culture for your non-English-speaking workers.
Coping With Future Changes
The upcoming years are bound to come with even more changes and disruptions to various industries. However, the UK construction industry will remain resilient. These companies and their construction workers are essential to the growth and repair of the country, after all.
Supply2Gov is here to help your business deal with any potential disruptions in the future. We provide contract opportunities for construction tenders to help you build a relationship with the public sector. Register for a free demo today to get started.