UK construction sector benefits from Shortage Occupation List updates

Business Immigration, 20 March 2023

The UK Government is introducing changes to the Immigration Rules which will make it easier for UK businesses within the construction sector to recruit skilled workers from overseas.

As COVID-19 restrictions were eased in the UK, the economy was able to recover and construction projects around the country resumed. This exposed a major shortage of skilled and unskilled labourers in the construction sector. As a previous member of the European Union (EU), the sector could previously rely on the free movement of workers from other European countries. However, this ended with Brexit significantly impacting the industry. Before Brexit, about 40% of all construction workers in the UK came from other EU countries and since, such workers have found it difficult to get visas to work in the UK.

Addition of new construction roles to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL)

To help ease immediate labour supply pressures, the government commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to undertake a rapid Shortage Occupation List (SOL) assessment for the construction and hospitality sectors, ahead of its full review of the SOL concluding later in 2023.  The government has accepted the MAC’s interim recommendations to initially add five construction occupations to the SOL, which will take effect before summer recess in 20 July 2023.  The government will also review the SOL more regularly, based on recommendations from the MAC, so that the legal migration system is quicker and more responsive to the needs of businesses and the economy.

What is the Shortage Occupation List (SOL)?

The UK Shortage Occupation List (SOL) lists jobs that the UK Government deems are in short supply within the UK labour market. For jobs on the SOL, the UK’s Immigration Rules for a Skilled Worker visa are more flexible, especially in relation to salary requirements to make it easier for overseas workers with expertise in shortage occupations to come and work in the UK and tackle labour shortages.

Five new construction roles to be added

The government will add the following five construction roles to the SOL before the government’s summer recess on 20 July 2023:

  • Bricklayers and masons
  • Roofers, roof tilers and slaters
  • Carpenters and joiners
  • Plasterers
  • Construction and building trades not elsewhere classified

Currently, the only construction job which appears on the SOL is the welding trade – only high integrity pipe welders, where the UK job requires 3 or more years’ related on-the-job experience.

Implications for the construction industry

The construction sector is a major contributor to the UK economy generating over £110 billion per year and as such, it is important that construction projects can run smoothly.

UK businesses can already sponsor foreign nationals in the above roles on a Skilled Worker visa.  However, for a job which is included on the SOL, a worker can be paid a lower salary rate of £20,960 per year or 80% of the ‘going rate’ for the job they’re offered – whichever is higher to qualify for the visa, as opposed to £26,200 or 100% of the ‘going rate’ for non-shortage occupations.  Lower application fees also apply for shortage occupation roles.

UK businesses which wish to take advantage of the relaxed rules for hiring foreign national construction workers must ensure that they hold a valid Sponsor Licence in the Skilled Worker visa category.

For more detailed UK immigration advice and for any other questions on this and other UK immigration developments, please contact us at info@viajeukimmigration.com