Labour challenges persist as roofing workloads rise


THE State of the Roofing Industry survey from NFRC and Glenigan for Q1 of 2023 indicates that roofing contractors’ workload grew once again in the period, and a balance of 16% of firms saw a rise in enquiries compared with the previous quarter.

Domestic and commercial repair, maintenance, and improvement spearheaded workload growth and had improving enquiry rates. The survey found that new build – both domestic and commercial – ‘cooled off’ slightly during the quarter. Despite this, all sectors remain positive that workloads will strengthen over the coming months.

Regional trends

Roofing contractors that operate nationwide had a more positive experience with workload growth in Q1 than those operating in a specific region. A balance of 60% of nationwide firms reported increasing workload, whilst in particular firms in Yorkshire and the North East, Wales, and Scotland saw a fall.

Labour challenges

Difficulty obtaining labour with the right skillset solidified. 49% of firms reported that they found recruitment harder in the period, versus only 9% who felt the situation had improved. The data indicates employment levels rose ‘gently’ despite a challenging labour market.

Notably though, this leaned towards using sub-contractors: a balance of 4% of firms increased direct headcount, whilst a balance of 11% grew their use of sub-contracted labour.

The most sought-after skill was again roof slating and tiling, with 45% of firms struggling to find workers.

Material availability and pricing

Contractors reported a continued improvement material availability, with a balance of 7% of firms reporting an easier experience securing materials. However, material prices have continued to rise. A balance of 70% reported increased material costs.

Cost of doing business

A balance of 51% of firms raised their prices this quarter, with cash flow described as more challenging by persistent late payment.

Looking ahead

Overall, contractors have positive expectations for the next quarter and the coming year. Roofing contractors in all six measured sectors reported expecting workloads to improve over the next twelve months. On a regional basis, the majority also had this expectation, with the exceptions of firms in Scotland, the north west, and Yorkshire and the north east.

Ruth Scarrott, NFRC’s head of careers, said, “I am glad to see that contractors are positive in their expectations for 2023 and that workloads have remained strong across the industry, yet persistent recruitment difficulties are clearly hampering firms’ capacity to take on new jobs. Consequently, it is more important than ever that the industry and government work to address the skills challenge. Contractors who are worried about meeting their skills needs are encouraged to use NFRC’s free Careers Service for information and support.

“NFRC provides a number of services to help roofing contractors recruit and retain their workforce in this difficult landscape. All roofing or cladding contractors are welcome to get in touch to access fully funded support in finding, hiring, and keeping on a new starter in their business via the ‘ECO Project’. This means the contractor and their new-to-roofing team member, whether they are an apprentice, labourer, administrator or any other role, get guidance and support from us all the way from putting out their job advert until the employee is six months in post.

“The only stipulation is that the employee needs to be either new to roofing or returning after some time away from the industry. The online NFRC Careers Service also has completely free and accessible resources to guide firms through an effective recruitment process, providing contractors with the tools to grow their workforce.

“NFRC Members can also seek support from the NFRC Charitable Trust’s Inclusion Fund, which grants funds for employers’ efforts to recruit new people from diverse backgrounds, including site visits and practical demonstrations. Talent attraction, and recognising that new individuals are needed to replenish the experienced workforce, is a vital part of ensuring we have a skilled roofing workforce in the years to come.”