In an increasingly globalised world, the construction industry in the United Kingdom has witnessed a surge in international talent contributing to its growth and development.
However, this influx of skilled workers has also led to complex legal issues at the intersection of construction law and UK immigration.
This article delves into the challenges and opportunities that arise when construction law and immigration law converge, providing insights for both construction companies and foreign workers seeking opportunities in the UK construction sector.
The Role of Immigration Law in the Construction Industry
The UK construction industry heavily relies on a diverse workforce, often requiring skilled and unskilled labour from overseas to meet its demands.
To manage this flow of skilled workers, the UK government has established a set of immigration laws and policies that construction companies must navigate.
These laws determine who is eligible to work in the UK, the duration of their stay, and the conditions under which they can work. It is crucial for construction companies to stay informed about these changes to ensure compliance and avoid legal complications.
A recent Construction Industry Training Board report states:
‘The commitment of the CLC (Construction leadership council) to work with the Home Office to support government engagement with industry on the system will therefore be important.
Among employers that had either considered the PBS (Points Based System) or had used it, the view was that it was too time-consuming, slow-moving and expensive. Of the half of employers that claimed awareness, 48% suggested that they had poor knowledge of it and only 28% reported a good understanding’.
Tier 2 (General) Visa (skilled worker visa): A Key Pathway for Construction Workers
One of the primary routes for overseas construction workers to enter the UK legally is through the Tier 2 (General) Visa (skilled worker visa). This visa category is designed for skilled workers who have received a job offer from a UK-based employer. Construction companies must obtain a sponsorship licence to hire foreign workers under this scheme. It is imperative for both employers and workers to understand the specific requirements, including the minimum salary threshold and English language proficiency, to secure and maintain this visa.
The following roles have been added to the Shortage Occupation List:
- Carpenters and joiners
- Roof tilers and slaters
Compliance with Right to Work Checks
Construction companies in the UK have a legal obligation to conduct right to work checks for all their employees, regardless of their nationality.
Failure to do so can result in severe penalties, including fines and imprisonment. These checks require employers to verify the identity and immigration status of their workers by examining relevant documents. To ensure compliance with immigration laws, construction companies must establish robust processes for conducting these checks and maintaining proper records.
Brexit and Its Impact on the Construction Industry
The United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, commonly referred to as Brexit, has had a profound impact on immigration laws and the construction industry.
Free movement of labour within the EU ceased, affecting the ease with which European construction workers could work in the UK. As a result, construction companies now face additional administrative burdens when hiring EU nationals. Understanding the new immigration rules and ensuring compliance is essential to avoid disruptions in project timelines and maintain a skilled workforce.
Opportunities for International Contractors
While navigating the complexities of UK immigration laws can be challenging, international contractors can also benefit from the opportunities the UK construction sector offers.
The demand for construction services remains high, and skilled workers from overseas continue to play a crucial role in meeting this demand. With proper planning and adherence to immigration regulations, foreign contractors can establish a foothold in the UK market and contribute to its growth.
PBS plays an integral role in meeting construction’s fluctuating skills needs and the effective use of a sponsorship licence is now integral to its success.
The intersection of construction law and UK immigration presents both challenges and opportunities for construction companies and skilled workers alike. Staying informed about immigration laws, complying with right to work checks, and adapting to post-Brexit regulations are essential for success in the UK construction industry.
By understanding and navigating the legal landscape, construction companies and skilled workers can continue to contribute to the growth and development of the sector while ensuring compliance with UK immigration laws.
Our team at Quastels continue to act for construction companies and work closely with our construction team to provide employment and immigration support at a time when the shortage of labour is one of the key delay factors in construction projects. Our mobility solutions are designed to allow seamless integration with an entity’s need to complete a project on time.