With now less than a year until Brexit becomes a reality, for many it continues to be the great unknown. A major headache for the UK Construction Industry remains the pressure on finding (and keeping) skilled workers and the further strain caused by uncertainty over EU workers’ future role in the industry. The government needs to step up its drive to reassure skilled construction workers of their place in the UK economy.
The news headlines regarding the net migration of EU citizens post-referendum may have projected a significant downturn, however the reality is more reassuring. In the year following the referendum, EU citizens within the UK increased by around 275,000 (8%). Compared to 12% the year before the referendum, this suggests more of a cooling off (in an uncertain time) rather than a mass exodus. The reassurance on the right to stay in late 2017 will have eased the anxiety of many workers and their contractors. The next task is to continue to promote the UK as a safe, well-paid and decent place to work.
The work being done by the government on workers’ rights and employment status, following the Matthew Taylor Report, will no doubt not only lay out a roadmap for the future of work in the UK but, importantly, it will also set a tone. The tone that is set must be one that makes work fairer but also easier. The attacks on genuine self-employment must stop – significant numbers of EU workers come to the UK for the very reason that they can get flexible, well-paid and skilled work. If barriers are put up, then they simply will not come.
The Construction Industry needs to be the engine room of the UK economy post-Brexit and our highly-skilled friends over in Europe must be part of that.