Bricklayers, roofers and joiners all added to Shortage Occupation List

Visa rules are to be relaxed for a number of building trades to help businesses plug labour shortages using foreign workers. 

The Home Office has confirmed that the Shortage Occupation List has been updated to help key sectors, including construction, after a review of the immigration system by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) earlier this year. 

The move has been welcomed by the building industry as “vital” and “overdue”, despite an outcry from backbench Conservative MPs.


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Bricklayers are among the trades listed by the Migration Advisory Committee as being where more labour is needed

The committee recommended a number of roles be added to the list, including bricklayers and masons, roofers, carpenters and joiners, and plasterers. 

Inclusion on the Shortage Occupation List, which covers sectors where employers are struggling to fill vacancies, means foreign workers applying for work visas in the sector will pay lower fees and can be paid 80% of the job’s usual rate and still qualify for a visa. 

The list sets out skilled jobs for which there is a domestic shortage and makes it easier to recruit from abroad by reducing the salary threshold under which workers can qualify for a skilled worker visa from £25,600 to £20,480.  

It also reduces visa sponsorship costs for businesses.

The decision by the Home Office sparked outrage among backbench Conservative MPs opposed to increased immigration, despite the MAC’s conclusion that adding construction workers to the shortage list would not make a major difference to overall figures.

Sir John Hayes, who held a series of junior ministerial positions in the Cameron and May governments, told MailOnline that the move was “short-sighted”.

“We should be investing in skills and equipping our workforce to meet economic demand,” he said.

“It’s unacceptable to fail to train enough Britons in key skills, then compensate by robbing other countries of their skilled craftsmen.

“Of course you can grow the economy by importing workers but it should be about strengthening the economy by training people in vocational and technical skills.”

But the move has been welcomed by the construction sector, with Eddie Tuttle, policy, research and external affairs director at the Chartered Institute of Building, saying it was “overdue”. 

“The addition of these roles to the Shortage Occupation List is something we have called for through the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) and we’re glad the industry’s voice has been heard as the construction sector directly plays a vital role in the UK economy and is an enabler to so many others,” he said.

“While we acknowledge our industry needs to work harder to attract workers from here in the UK, there is an immediate skills shortage which must be addressed and without a good supply of skilled workers from abroad, as well as homegrown talent, projects large and small including the likes of schools, hospitals, new homes and key infrastructure simply won’t happen.” 

Build UK chief Suzannah Nichol said the change was “vital” for construction to be able to fill vacancies and said it would “help the industry continue to deliver the schools, homes, hospitals and infrastructure that we need”.

Allan Wilen, economic director at data analyst Glenigan, added: “Relaxing visa restrictions are welcome.  

“Whilst construction activity has cooled in recent months, the industry is still facing a high level of job vacancies and a shortage of labour, this move will hopefully help firms address current skills gaps in their workforce.” 

Outside of construction, the Home Office also added jobs in the fishing trade to the list. Another review is expected by the autumn.