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Two-thirds of firms 'have no Brexit plan'

Two-thirds of UK construction firms have not planned or taken any action to mitigate the impact of Brexit, a new study by the CITB has found.

In its latest paper on the likely effects on sector migration, the CITB found that 71 per cent of firms had not taken or planned to take action to address the consequences of Brexit, while a third of companies (32 per cent) reported already experiencing the impact.

The report also found that only 8 per cent of those companies that had made contingency plans said they would be increasing training.

CITB director of policy Steve Radley told Construction News that while many companies were being affected, the inaction in terms of planning was largely down to the uncertainty around what form Brexit will take.

He said: “The dependence on migrant workers has grown: if you look at the share of migrant workers in the workforce, it is getting to one in seven.

“Most of the companies – particularly the larger ones – are more dependent on migrant workers.

“Given the fact there is so much uncertainty around Brexit, for most employers their key focus is what they need to do today.”

The CITB’s report surveyed 244 migrant workers, 400 employers and 50 recruitment agents.

Mr Radley said it had found a major change in the demographic of skilled workers coming into the UK.

“More of the migrants we are seeing are at the lower qualification end,” he said.

“Although we have continued to attract overseas workers, it has been harder to get the best – and other countries may be more attractive.”

The type of EU worker to see the biggest increase among the UK workforce was general labourer, which represented 20 per cent of all migrant workers – up from 12 per cent in the previous year’s survey.

Carpenter was the second biggest proportion, representing 15 per cent of non-UK workers, while plumber was third on 6 per cent.

The country that has seen the biggest increase in nationals moving into the UK to work in the construction industry is Romania, which trebled from 27,000 in 2015 to 64,000 in 2017.

Currently there are more than 2.25m people working in the UK construction sector, with 14.8 per cent born outside the UK – up from 13 per cent in 2015.

The latest figures come after the CITB forecast that a total of 158,000 new construction jobs would need to be created between now and 2022.

Despite wider Brexit uncertainty, the report said that the majority of EU workers had clarity over their status in the UK and could see a future working in the UK sector in both the short and long term.

In total, four out of five EU migrants said they expected to stay in the UK over the next 12 months, while 60 per cent believed that they would continue to work in the UK up until retirement.

Mr Radley said that much of this was down to changes the government had announced making it easier for EU migrants who have been working and living in the UK for a number of years to secure their status.

“Migrant workers are still pretty upbeat about working in Britain, many have got clarity of their rights going forward so I think the Home Office information campaign has started to work quite well,” Mr Radley said.

“The proportion that say they want to stay in the UK will rise if they get more clarity on what their rights will be.”

Of the employers to be surveyed, 54 per cent found that non-UK workers had a better work ethic than UK employees, while 59 per cent said that non-UK workers were more productive. 

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