Roofing and cladding contractors report strong workloads as labour and cost challenges intensify


NEW research has revealed that more than half of roofing and cladding contractors found it tougher to recruit suitable labour in the third quarter of 2022.

The findings were revealed in the latest State of the Roofing Industry survey from NFRC (National Federation of Roofing Contractors) and Glenigan.

The survey supports the view that pipelines of work have remained strong for most businesses in the sector, but other factors are proving to be challenging.

44% of survey respondents reported a greater workload compared to the previous quarter, with only 12% experiencing a decline. Enquiries were down in most sectors, but contractors were positive about the market in the short-term.

Obtaining sufficient labour stood out as a major challenge in Q3, with 51% of companies reporting greater difficulty finding operatives and staff with the right skills. Only 9% said they had found it easier than in the previous quarter.

Roof slaters and tilers proved most difficult to recruit, with 35% of respondents saying they were finding it hard to find suitable operatives. 23% reported difficulty sourcing built-up felt roofers, while 20% had the same issue finding general labourers.

One respondent said that if they had enough staff, their firm would be able to double its current output. Almost a third of respondents said they had struggled to keep new recruits recently.

Labour costs were an additional challenge, with more firms reporting an increased wage bill than reported taking on more people, even including those with an increased use of sub-contracted labour.

In terms of material prices, 75% of respondents reported seeing costs rise compared to the previous quarter. This has resulted in 52% of businesses increasing their tender prices.

More than one in five companies reported increased difficulty in obtaining the necessary supplies, with concrete roof tiles proving hardest to obtain. 9% have also found it difficult to obtain the necessary timber battens.

Late payment is also an issue, with 54% of firms reporting average contractual payment terms of 30 days or less, but only 21% actually receiving payments on average within that time.

James Talman, NFRC CEO, said, “On the whole, the third quarter of 2022 presents a mixed picture — cost inflation, project delays and labour challenges are putting pressure on firms, yet firms are still busy, and material availability issues have eased considerably compared to a year ago.

“Government needs to provide contractors with reassurance that they will help businesses to carry the burden of increased energy costs, and invest in training the next generation of the construction workforce so that firms are not continually hampered by a lack of operatives. It also needs to look at removing barriers to cash flow (including retentions), and all firms need to be pushed to deliver on implementing Build UK’s minimum retention standards — pledges alone will not keep SMEs afloat.

“Firms should take up the opportunities available to recruit and retain new talent and grow their workforce. The ECO project, for example, allows NFRC to offer support to firms in England or Scotland to recruit and retain a new starter, supporting them comprehensively through the first six months, via funding from CITB.”

Allan Wilén, economic director at Glenigan, added, “Whilst the cost and availability of materials remain a constraint on the roofing industry, contractors are also struggling to recruit and retain skilled labour. Despite these supply side restrictions, roofing contractors’ workload continued to grow during the third quarter, although a slight slowing in enquiries points to a cooling in workload over the coming months.”