The proposed government overhaul of immigration will put ‘enormous pressure’ on the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom installation sector, according to the chief executive of the main industry installers body.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, seen by kbbreview, Damian Walters, CEO of The British Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom and Bathroom Installation (BiKBBI), said that the post-Brexit plans – which propose a points-based system – would exclude many skilled fitters from working in the UK.
“The [reported] introduction of measures to limit foreign labour… have the potential to add enormous pressure to the home-improvement and construction industry – an industry already in crisis with a severe skills gap,” Walters said.
The Government believes that these changes will encourage employers to “move away” from “cheap labour” from Europe and invest more in home-grown staff.
Walters says that the Farmer Review, a 2016 report commissioned by the Government to look at labour in the UK construction market, identified many key issues, including a chronic lack of skilled workers.
“With our departure from the European Union, the UK labour market now faces additional challenges,” he said. “Challenges that didn’t exist at the time of the Farmer Review now present additional unmapped complexities that I believe will almost certainly be catastrophic for the construction and home-improvement industry if not handled carefully within proposed immigration policy.
“While some progress has been made following the recommendations of the review, the simple fact remains that there is not enough skilled labour to deliver against the demand of both construction targets and indeed consumer need.”
He has asked the Prime Minster to work closely with trade associations, such as the BiKBBI, to understand grassroots issues more thoroughly before embarking on wholesale immigration changes.
“The vast majority of our SME members, hard-working and highly skilled home-improvement specialists, may not meet the formal qualification requirement for a number of reasons, let alone the unskilled labour that support their respective businesses.
“I believe that [trade associations] can play an integral role in supporting the Government to achieve a balanced policy that accepts that hard-working people from across the globe do not necessarily arrive with paper qualification, but perhaps do possess the skills to support the Government’s targets on construction and consumers expectations on home improvement.”
In the recent kbbreview survey, kitchen and bathroom retailers said that finding skilled fitters was the single biggest issue they faced – placing it much higher than Brexit.