Almost 50% of those building homes in London are from the EU

Apprentice Alamy

Brexit will hit housebuilders hard with new figures revealing one in five workers on these sites being from outside the UK.

A Home Builders Federation (HBF) survey has revealed EU workers on homebuilding sites represent 17.1% of the workforce across the UK with that number soaring to almost 50% on sites in the capital.

Official statistics suggest that 12.6% of general construction workers across the UK are foreign-born, of which 5.7% are from EU-accession countries. The census suggests the reliance of housebuilding on foreign workers is heavier than the wider construction industry. 

The survey, which was carried out over 37,167 workers on more than 1,000 of its sites, also revealed 15% of bricklayers are non-UK workers with that number soaring to 48.5% in London.

Brickwork infographic 2017

With Brexit looming and the government’s ambitious housing targets laid out in last month’s budget, HBF executive chairman Stewart Basley said the sector had a clear need for overseas workers.

He said: “The results of this census clearly demonstrate the reliance the industry currently has on non UK workers. Output is up a massive 74% in recent years but achieving the very challenging targets set by government will require further big increases in workforce capacity.

”Whilst the industry is investing heavily in recruiting and training young people leaving our schools, colleges and universities, continued access to overseas workers is absolutely essential.”

The industry has provided the census to ministers, officials and the Migration Advisory Committee and has asked government to secure the status for existing employees as quickly as possible and ensure house building roles are represented in future immigration arrangements.

Lord Stunell, the Liberal Democrat peer behind a review into the impact of Brexit on the construction industry, has said the government has been misguided in its handling of EU construction workers.

He told Building: “EU workers who are already here have been put in a very unhappy position by the approach the government is taking.

”The government has been quite mistaken in thinking they should be used as some kind of bargaining chip in the discussions with the rest of the EU. Quite understandably a lot of the workforce is beginning to wonder what on earth is happening,” the former building regulations minister said.