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Europe – One in five construction workers considering leaving the UK amid Brexit uncertainties, Randstad finds

11 February 2019

One in five construction workers in the UK have considered leaving the country amid uncertainties surrounding the EU Referendum, according to a survey from Randstad.

The survey, which polled more than 10,500 construction workers, also found that one in three EU nationals have considered leaving the UK because of the Brexit referendum. Of those EU nationals who have already considered leaving the UK, 81% questioned said they wouldn’t consider leaving until after 29th March.

Findings from the survey also found a disconnect between the perceived motivators to leave the UK versus the reality. UK citizens believe that the main reason behind EU nationals wanting to leave is uncertainty around visas (39%). However, it is the potential drop in construction projects, and subsequent funding and jobs, that was found to be the biggest driving force at 39%. This is followed by uncertainty over trade deals with the EU (19%), with uncertainty over visas accounting for 16%.

Owen Goodhead, Managing Director of Randstad Construction Property & Engineering, commented, “It’s interesting to discover a disconnect between what the wider population think are key issues for EU nationals working in construction in the UK, and what those individuals actually believe. With the potential impact of Brexit being so high on the news agenda we were able to capture an incredibly relevant audience, allowing us to really tap into the minds of the current workforce and understand exactly how they think.”

“Where UK workers believe complications around visas are the main problem driving EU nationals away from the UK construction industry, the reality is that it’s the potential drop in projects and jobs which could cause workers to explore other opportunities,” Goodhead said. “This valuable insight can help employers get ahead of the curve while there’s still time, by preparing for a post-Brexit industry – the key is to listen to the current workforce, focus on retention strategy and to ensure robust contingency plans are in place.”

According to Randstad, a no-deal Brexit raises the prospect of delays and cost increases, as employers face difficulties in getting vital EU workers to UK building sites, threatening the timing of projects.

“With 7% of construction workers in the UK and over a quarter of London’s construction workforce coming from other EU countries, as well as £10 billion (15%) of incoming building materials from the EU, it’s clear that action needs to be taken,” Randstad stated. “The good news is that there is still time to make a difference and retain highly-skilled workers.”

Earlier this month growth in the UK’s construction industry declined in January to its weakest since March 2018, according to the IHS Markit/CIPS UK Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI). The index fell to 50.6 from 52.8 in December, below all forecasts, Reuters reported.

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