Construction Needs Breathing Space on Post-Brexit Visas, says CITB

CONSTRUCTION EMPLOYERS want greater simplicity and a breathing space on planned visa restrictions following the UK’s departure from the EU, says CITB.

A CITB research report, Migration and Construction, finds that just 3% of construction employers have experience in handling visa applications, and two-thirds say that the process is difficult.

Under the new post-Brexit immigration system – due to start in January 2021 – employers will have to learn how to manage visa applications for EU workers. The CITB says, ‘Any system that makes the hiring of migrant workers too bureaucratic threatens to block the work pipeline, including the Government’s homebuilding and key infrastructure ambitions’.

Roofing industry

For non-UK workers entering the roofing industry, the ‘low skilled’ visa for people with level 2 qualifications is likely to be most relevant (green, red and blue CSCS cards). However, this visa will be granted for 12 months only. Most employers (70%) don’t see this visa as suitable for their business.

The 2121 immigration system will allow ‘high skilled’ workers, that is Level 3 or above, to stay in the UK on an open-ended visa, as long as they earn £30,000 or above. This visa is seen as unsuitable in the roofing industry generally, as most employed roofers do not need or possess Level 3 qualifications.

Construction employers want non-UK Level 2 workers to be able to ‘train to remain’, by extending the Level 2 12-month visa to 24 months. This will give workers a chance to gain a Level 3 qualification and give companies the opportunity to ease skills gaps, improve employers long-term staff retention and minimise recruitment costs.

At present, almost half (41%) of EU migrant workers in construction are self-employed. Under current plans, there is no visa system to cover them and these workers will have to leave the UK in 2021 or apply for a worker visa.

Umbrella sponsorship

CITB says it is working with government and other industry organisations, such as the Construction Leadership Council, to develop an ‘Umbrella Sponsorship’ scheme that will allow this group to obtain visas.

Steve Radley, CITB Policy Director

Commenting on the new report, CITB Policy Director, Steve Radley said: “Migrant workers have long played a key role in the UK’s construction sector. They make up 14% of the construction workforce, a percentage that rises to 54% in London. They give employers the flexibility to respond quickly to skills needs.

“Employers are raising real concerns about the future 12-month visa scheme. They want to see it extended to 24 months, and for workers to be given the opportunity to ‘train to remain’. A new scheme must additionally be put in place to enable self-employed migrants to work in the sector.

“It’s important that construction has the breathing space to adjust to new changes. CITB will work closely with Government to see that a simple, flexible migration system is put in place to support employers’ skills requirements, while industry grows its domestic workforce.”

Read the Migration and construction research report.

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