Breakthrough for the finishes and interiors sector on migration

Breakthrough for the finishes and interiors sector on migration

FIS welcomes the announcement in the Budget that the MAC has added a number of new construction trades to the Shortage Occupation List and opted to add Dry Lining to the list of occupations in the Skilled Worker List.  This is significant as it potentially provides access to a controlled immigration process that will support the sector in managing any existing or upcoming shortages in our workforce.  Other trades most relevant to the finishes and interiors sector now included on the Shortage Occupation List are plastering and carpentry and joinery (both of which were already on the Skilled Worker List).

In advance of starting the full SOL review, MAC were, in advance of the Budget expedited review of occupations in the construction and hospitality sectors, recommending the addition of eligible occupations to the SOL and RQF 1-2 occupations to the Skilled Worker (SW) route where appropriate.

To be eligible for the SOL, an occupation must fulfil the eligibility requirements of the SW route. A job must be classified into a Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) level 3-5 skill group or above and meet a minimum annual salary threshold. The Government has uprated these thresholds as part of the routine Spring package of Immigration Rules that were laid on 9 March 2023, following which (subject to Parliamentary approval) this minimum threshold will be £26,200. For this review, the Government have asked that we also consider currently ineligible RQF 1-2 occupations for possible inclusion on the SOL. However, the Government have made clear that such inclusion should be rare, and so the bar is high for such occupations to be added.

Table 5.3: Recommendations for occupations in construction

SOC Description Decision
5311 Steel erectors Do not recommend for addition to the SOL
5312 Bricklayers and masons Recommend for addition to the SOL
5313 Roofers, roof tilers and slaters Recommend for addition to the SOL
5315 Carpenters and joiners Recommend for addition to the SOL
5319 Construction and building trades n.e.c. Recommend for addition to the SOL
5321 Plasterers Recommend for addition to the SOL and recommend that ‘Dryliners’ but not ‘Ceiling fixers’ are moved to this SOC code
8141 Scaffolders, stagers and riggers Do not recommend for addition to the SOL
8142 Road construction operatives Do not recommend for addition to the SOL
8149 Construction operatives n.e.c. Do not recommend for addition to the SOL Recommend that ‘Dryliners’ but not ‘Ceiling fixers’ are moved from this SOC code to SOC code 5321 (Plasterers)
8229 Mobile machine drivers and operatives n.e.c. Do not recommend for addition to the SOL
9120 Elementary construction occupations Do not recommend for addition to the SOL

By moving Dry Lining into the Standard Occupation Classification area 5321 (as per FIS recommendation and lobbying work on the SOC), Dry Lining is now also shares skilled worker status with Plastering for the purposes of being a Skilled Worker.

Commenting on the changes, FIS CEO Iain McIlwee stated:

“It is a relief to finally see Dry Lining recognised as both a skilled occupation and also the shortages that we face as a sector.  This is something FIS have been campaigning on for a number of years and I am grateful to colleagues from across the Construction Leadership Council for their efforts in helping to effect this exceptional change and thankful that we now have some movement.  We now need to respond to the detailed review taking place to identify other areas of concern and revisit the sponsor and visa process to better understand any further blockers and issues”.

CLC Publishes Report into Shortage of Occupations in Construction

CLC Publishes Report into Shortage of Occupations in Construction

The Construction Leadership Council has published its report of shortage occupations in construction and its updated guidance to help construction businesses access the Points Based Immigration System.

In February 2023, the CLC submitted stakeholder evidence to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), detailing shortage occupations that could be considered for inclusion on the Shortage Occupation List of the UK’s Points Based Immigration System, as well as potential roles to be added to the Skilled Worker route.

The CLC’s Movement of People Working Group compiled a comprehensive report, detailing its recommendations, an evidence base, the actions industry is taking to increase the domestic workforce as well as other ideas to help tackle skills shortages.

The CLC recommended the following occupations for inclusion on the Shortage Occupation List:

  • Plasterers, Dry Liners and Ceiling Fixers
  • Carpenters and Joiners
  • General Labourers
  • Bricklayers and Masons
  • Ground Workers
  • Piling Rig Operatives
  • Plant Operatives
  • Retrofit Co-ordinators
  • Road Construction Operatives
  • Roofers, Roof Tilers and Slaters
  • Scaffolders, Stagers and Riggers
  • Steel Erectors
  • Thermal Insulators

The MAC is expected to report on construction shortages in due course.

Commenting, Co-Chair of the CLC and Group Chairman and CEO of MACE, Mark Reynolds said:
“The CLC is committed to building our domestic construction workforce and championing construction as one of the best career choices for new entrants but the fact is we are still currently facing chronic shortages. A dynamic immigration system allows us to bridge gaps in workforce need and meet the people requirement for the sector’s pipeline of work. That’s why we are calling for the inclusion of these occupations in the shortage occupation list, to help make it a little easier to access the right people, at the right time’.

FIS CEO, Iain McIlwee added:
“Data from our recent Skills Pulse Survey underpins that 40% of businesses are still experiencing shortages in skilled labour and this is likely to worsen as volumes pick up constraining potential growth.  The training sector is rapidly scaling up, but doesn’t provide a quick fix.  We are grateful to colleagues from across the construction sector for pulling together and pooling our resources to help make this detailed submission to Government and the MAC and focussing on how we can add a bit of flexibility to the system”.

Access the full report here.

Access the CLC’s revised 2023 Immigration Guidance ‘Movement of People – What you should know’ here.

Response to Migration and Shortage Occupation Consultation

Response to Migration and Shortage Occupation Consultation

Whilst the future of Government Immigration Policy remains somewhat unclear, through the CLC, FIS was asked to respond to the Migration Advisory Committee’s interim review of the construction occupations in the Shortage Occupations List (SOL).

We have responded directly focussing specifically on the status of shortages in the finishes and interiors sector and supported the response from CLC which has called for 17 new occupations to be added to the SOL carpenters, painters and decorators, piling rig operatives, dry liners, ceiling fixers, plasterers, roofers, and scaffolders. The outcome of this interim review is expected in March, with a full review of the SOL due to be undertaken later this year.

To view the FIS response which includes our underlying data click here this drew on data collected throughout the year including our Skills Pulse Survey, this is survey is still open and if you have a few minutes to complete the more data the better.

No Going Back: creating career opportunities for ex-offenders

No Going Back: creating career opportunities for ex-offenders

FIS is working with No Going Back (NGB), an innovative programme of training, support, employment, and housing funded and driven by 35 Livery Companies working collaboratively to reduce re-offending.

With Employment being such a major part of changing people’s lives when people leave prison, helping to dramatically reduce the likelihood of reoffending, between 23 January – 3 of February 2023, New Futures Network are hosting ‘Unlocking Construction’ employment events in prisons across England & Wales. and NGB are delighted to be a part of this in HMP Onley, Brixton, Wandsworth, and Thamesmead.

HMP Wandsworth and HMP Onley would like to invite Employers from the Construction Industry inside to be part of a special employment event on Wed 25 January (Wandsworth) and Wed 1 February (Onley) to support men into sustainable jobs in the construction sector upon release. This could be men with experience or those who are looking to pursue a new career in the sector.  As more than 80% of men released from HMP Onley return to London and the Home Counties, many fantastic potential candidates are keen to find out about jobs on release.

For those attending, the events will follow the format:

HMP Wandsworth – Wednesday 25th January at 1:30 pm (likely finish time 4pm)

An interactive session in the Bounce Back Dry Lining workshop for serving prisoners who are interested in working in Dry Lining – some are currently doing the dry lining training course, and others have completed it.

This event is to improve their awareness of, and access to information on further training and employment opportunities available by introducing them directly to specialists and employers in the sector.  It would give the men a chance to raise any questions to address challenges or concerns relating to employment or training within the sector. The prison will also pre-select a couple of men who are work-ready and approaching release for employers to speak with individually.


HMP Onley are hosting a Construction Fair on the day, with a cross-section of employers from the industry to support men into sustainable employment upon release. This could be men with experience or those who are new and looking to pursue a career in construction.

They are running a morning and afternoon session to allow more prisoners to take part and fit around the prison regime. More than 80% of men released from HMP Onley return to London and the Home Counties, there are many fantastic potential candidates who are keen to find out about jobs on release.  For employers attending, there would also be an opportunity to have a prison tour to visit the Industry Workshops and recently launched Employment Hub.  Training programmes running in this facility include Dry Lining, Carpentry and Joinery and Flooring.

NGB are also happy to facilitate visits in other prisons.

If you are interested in attendng one of these prison visits or finding out more about opportunities to engage in a programme in your local area (or arranging a seperate arrangement for these two facilities), please email asap (copy or call the FIS on 0121 707 0077.

Right to Work: Ukrainian & Afghan Workers and end to COVID relaxations

Right to Work: Ukrainian & Afghan Workers and end to COVID relaxations

Employing Ukranian and Afghan Workers

Minister for Refugees Lord Harrington has written to businesses confirming that Ukrainian and Afghan nationals have a right to work in the UK where they have resettled under the Ukraine Family Scheme, Homes for Ukraine Scheme, Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy or Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme. Although the exact process will be determined by how the individual arrived in the UK, employers should conduct right to work checks in the usual manner and contact the Home Office Employer Checking Service (ECS) if further verification if required.

In his letter the Minister re-iterates that all employers in the UK have a responsibility to conduct simple right to work checks before employing someone. These checks are required regardless of nationality – even British citizens are caught by the measures.

Afghan nationals who have resettled in the UK under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy or the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme, and Ukraine nationals who have resettled in the UK under the Ukraine Family and Homes for Ukraine Schemes have a right to work. To evidence that right, employers should conduct right to work checks in the usual way.

For Ukraine nationals, the exact process required of the employer is shaped by how the individual arrived in the UK and the documentation held. But, broadly speaking, at the time of writing:

  1. Where an individual has a stamp in their passport which provides a time-limited right to work, the employer will need to manually check the passport as set out in published guidance, and perform a follow-up check to ensure the required documentation to evidence the right to work for a longer period (i.e. a Biometric Residence Permit) has been obtained;
  2. Where an individual has an eVisa (digital evidence of their immigration status, accessible online), the employer should use the online right to work checking service on GOV.UK in the same way as they would for others in possession of a biometric card; and
  3. Where an individual does not have a passport but instead has an Entry Clearance vignette attached to a ‘Form for Affixing the Visa’ (FAV), where necessary this document can be used as proof of right to work in conjunction with confirmation from the Home Office Employer Checking Service (ECS) in the form of a PositiveVerification Notice (PVN). However, in most cases, shortly after arrival a BiometricResidence Permit is available for collection, and this should be used to access the online checking service.

Where necessary, employers may contact the Home Office Employer Checking Service(ECS) verify right to work:

End of COVID-19 Temporary Changes

The temporary changes to right to work checks introduced in response to COVID‐19, which allow employers to undertake checks via video calls and use scanned copies rather than original documents, are due to end on 30 September 2022. After this date, employers are recommended to verify an individual’s right to work using a certified digital identity service provider (IDSP).

The relevant guidance on Right to Work Checks can be accessed here.

You can visit the FIS Employment Toolkit Here

FIS Focus: Vital Information on Inflation and Product Availability

FIS Focus: Vital Information on Inflation and Product Availability

FIS Position and Support on Inflation and Material Shortages

The past two years have, without doubt, been some of the hardest times businesses in the finishes and interiors sector have faced.  Uncertainty and challenge continues into 2022.  After rapid inflation in 2021 across all material groups, the year started with concerns around the impact of ongoing labour shortages, but in recent weeks the escalation of tragic events in Ukraine have started to put pressure on energy and fuel prices further pressure on the supply chain.  This has resulted in the announcement of further price increases and rapid inflation for key materials, fuel and energy.  Of particular concern for FIS members are increases in insulation, steel and plasterboard.

Where this impacts existing contractual relationships members are reminded to check contractual terms and consider the relevance and application of any fluctuation clauses.  If you are unable to rely on standard fluctuation clauses, an early conversation with your client in terms of your ongoing ability to fulfil the contract in the wake of rapid and unexpected price increases is essential.

Where you are currently tendering, consider carefully the impact of the current inflationary environment, look to link any fluctuation to material and product prices rather than general inflation or ensure that quotes are time stamped and limited.  Where you cannot negotiate a shared risk approach with your client, you need to seriously consider what could worse case scenario mean to your business if prices drifted?

We encourage all in the construction sector to consider seriously the impact of imposing fixed prices at this time.  The sector is working on every tighter margins and this could impact the resilience and ongoing viability of of businesses in the supply chain.  Where concerns are raised, a pragmatic, understanding and collaborative approach is essential.  It is vital that we work together to avoid conflict and we further encourage all companies to consider signing and adopting the principles set down in the Conflict Avoidance Pledge that has be developed by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and endorsed by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC).

Below we provide some information on the market forces that are resulting in ongoing inflationary pressures and additional advice and guidance related to managing businesses and contracts in a high inflation environment.

The aim is to keep it refreshed so our members are have a clear picture and can have informed decisions up and down the supply chain.

When can we expect an end to all of this?

With such a perfect storm of complex and cumulative issues it is difficult to know when we will start to notice improvement or how much worse things may get.  The old adage hope for the best, but prepare for the worst comes to mind.

The FIS is an active participant in the Construction Leadership Council who continue to monitor the situation through a dedicated working group of subject experts – you can access the latest Construction Leadership Council Product Availability Statement here (27 July 2022).

Certainly data from the RICS (published November 2021) construction materials costs in the UK continue to escalate, reaching a 40 year high based on the annual growth of the BCIS Materials Cost Index.  According to Joe Martin, BCIS Lead Consultant “The pressure on materials prices and availability is expected to continue at least until the end of 2022. Labour shortages are expected to evolve as the significant driver for overall construction cost increases next year and the construction sector would need to compete for it with other sectors”.

Above was before the situation escalated in the Ukraine.  The Construction Products Association have prepared for FIS Members an update on the wider impacts of this tragic conflict.

Demand Related Issues

The impact of higher than anticipated demand in key sectors like housing and the domestic refurbishment sector (fuelled by growing household savings) have exceeded expectation.  It is not simply UK demand, but we operate in an increasingly globalised market.  A surge in Chinese consumption is linked to faster than expected recovery from the pandemic fuelling property development and investment in infrastructure and notably by global demand for appliances and electronic goods (many of which are manufactured in China).

Supply Side Issues

As we step into 2022 the rapid escalation of events in the tragic Ukraine has sent oil and gas prices and hence energy costs across the world into a period or rapid inflation which is now feeding through into the price of construction products and logistics.   Since 1 April 2021, wholesale gas had risen from around of 50p/therm to around £2.80/therm by the end of March 2022.

You can track natural gas prices here.

Whilst the UK in not overly reliant on Russia or Ukraine for construction products (which together account for just 1.2% of imports of construction products, some areas such as flat glass and certain timber products have a more significant share from these markets.  Projects could also be impacted by shortages of products such as concrete reinforcing bars or other unrelated shortages (such as bricks) which are still ongoing.

The global situation remains volatile and it is impossible to predict accurately the ongoing impact on material and product prices.  Beyond the escalation in Ukraine, tension between the US and China and genuine concerns about UK Conformity Assessment (UKCA) marking implementation limiting availability at the start of 2023 as manufacturers struggle to get products tested in a compliant fashion in time and guidance remains unclear.

Logistical and Freight Challenges

Beyond supply and demand, inflation and availability problems has been further compounded by a number of issues related to freight and logistics, in 2021 we had the Suez Canal logjam, Brexit and pandemic uncertainty .  An ongoing shortage of lorry drivers has also been reported and has put upward pressure on transport costs.   Whilst shipping freight prices have started to ease in 2022, the invasion of Ukraine has pushed up fuel prices.

Squeezing the supply chain

A key concern is that in the wake of double digit inflation in the price of some materials and increasing labour costs and despite an increasingly healthy pipeline, we are not seeing equivalent inflation in tender prices, which means margins are likely to be squeezed and in extreme cases businesses could be driven into recession.

The  latest tender price reports from MACE is showing that current tender price inflation ran at 7.5% in 2021 and are expected to rise by 5.5% in 2022..

How can I track and report price movements?

There isn’t currently an index of prices specific to products in the Finishes and Interiors Sector, but you can draw out the main material movements via the Office of National Statistics, note this is lagging and prices are changing fairly rapidly at the moment.  It also doesn’t necessarily reflect prices on the ground due to specific grades/distribution buffering etc.

The World Bank commodity price index and London Metals Exchange give a high level picture, but doesn’t get into the detail on products used in the finishes and interiors sector.

The RICS publish the annually the BCIS Material Price Index

Probably the best reference is via the merchant groups, for example :

For the sake of balance, if you publish a similar index, please don’t hesitate to pop a link over by email or in the chat and we’ll include it here.

Information on price of paint from the British Coating Federation

FIS track labour prices on a half yearly basis with information available to contributors.  If interested in learning more email


Top tips for contracting in a high inflationary market

FIS have produced a new factsheet for members looking at some standard clauses to include with quotations and top tips for contracting at a time of high inflation.

Build UK have also produced information to inform the entire supply chain on how to manage relationships in an uncertain inflationary environment 

Bring your concerns to FIS

If you feel you are being treated unfairly, talk to us, we will do what we can.  We can, through our own contacts in the industry, the CLC and contact with the Small Business Commissioners Office and Civil Service shine a light on negative trends and poor behaviour, it can be done anonymously and handled sensitively so as not to damage your relationships.

FIS is urging the supply chain to heed the advice of the Construction Leadership Council and adopt a collaborative approach and ensure that there is ongoing and open communication through the supply chain and we are doing all we can to work together rather than tearing lumps off of each other.

Too often construction get contractual and adopts a siege mentality, parcelling up and firing risk out hoping it sticks elsewhere.  The much talked about transformation must start now, rather than pushing risk down the supply chain, we need to be communicating with clients, helping them to understand that these events are beyond the control of individual companies and we need to work together to resolve and manage.

Our supply chain has had an unprecedented and difficult year, we need to nurture it back to health, not return to old and punitive ways that will ultimately drive people out of business to the detriment of all.

Useful links:

FIS Webinar: Managing your business in a time of shortage – Listen again here

You can access the latest Construction Leadership Council Product Availability Statement here (27 July 2022).