Construction industry prepares to brace cracks in Brexit, warns the Federation of Master Builders.

Construction industry bosses have begun preparing for the worst ahead of the October Brexit deadline which they say could result in a downturn for their businesses. 

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) – the UK’s largest trade association – was established in 1941 to protect the interests of construction firms across the country and recently published the results of their State of Trade Q2 Survey 2019, which highlighted several areas of concern for the construction trade. 

The survey reported higher levels of sub-contracting and lower levels of direct employment as well as a decrease in employment levels among small construction firms for the first time in more than five years.

The report – the only quarterly assessment of the UK-wide Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) construction sector – also found that bricklayers are the trade in shortest supply with nearly two-thirds (60%) of construction SMEs struggling to hire these tradespeople and 54% struggling to hire carpenters and joiners.

Looking ahead, the FMB also reported that expectations for the future have weakened slightly, with just over one-third of construction SMEs (37%) forecasting higher workloads over the coming three months, down from 41% at the start of the year. 

Chief Executive of the FMB, Brian Berry said: “Years of Brexit uncertainty have resulted in construction bosses starting to change how they employ their workforce. 

“To ensure their firms are ready for any economic shock-waves later this year, employers are reducing their number of direct employees and relying more on sub-contractors who are easier to shed if work dries up. 

“Apprenticeship training has also taken a hit as construction bosses are reluctant to take on young people when they can’t be sure of future projects going ahead.”

Mr Berry added: “Worse still, the fear is that using more ‘subbies’ can lead to a drop in the quality of our builds. 

“If construction bosses are trying to protect their businesses by employing more ‘subbies’, they might not always know how good these ‘subbies’ are. 

“Rebalancing the workforce may seem like a good idea at the time, but it could lead to reputation-damaging mistakes.”

For more information or to view the full report log on to https://fmb.org.uk/media/46124/fmb_state_of_trade_q2_2019

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