Tradespeople – can you keep up with demand?

While some industries are still deep in recovery-mode, there has been a sharp increase in workload for tradespeople, but can they keep up with demand?

Tradespeople in high demand

It’s hard to believe that the national lockdown ended just five months ago. While some industries are still deep in recovery-mode, there has been a sharp increase in workload for tradespeople.  

Demand for building and maintenance work has soared as many sought to make home improvements after spending so long at home, staring at those odd jobs that needed doing, or wanting to maximise on the only outdoor space available during the restrictions. Add to that the rising UK house prices and many are choosing to stay put and make the most of their current home, perhaps adding value in the process.

Team that with work-from-home savings on fuel and parking (and takeaway coffees), it is estimated that Great British workers saved an average of £1,808 since March 2020 – and 45% are spending these savings on home improvements or maintenance, according Professional Builder.[1]

It’s no wonder that demand is rising and the construction industry is now one of our economy’s fastest growing sectors.

One survey showed that enquiries for building work rose at their fastest rate in a decade, and that 55% of tradespeople experienced an increase in their workload.[2] Alongside this, Professional Builder reported that 82% of tradespeople have seen an increase in earnings since the third lockdown. Great news.

But is the industry truly ready to grow on demand?

Alongside the rise in demand, workload and opportunity, there remains a shortage of materials and workers. The shortage of supplies such as steel, roof tiles, cement, paint, sealants, plaster and plasterboard has led to large price increases. In fact, Jewson reported a 10-15% price increase for wheelbarrows and a 5-20% rise for sealants, adhesives and chemicals.[3] Lead times for roof tiles are at an average of 24-30 weeks according to the CLC, while the steel shortage peaked back in May when British Steel had to pause taking orders on structural sections due to extreme demand.[4]

The FMB (The Federation of Master Builders) reported that 98% of its members experienced material price increases through the second quarter of 2021, and 50% were struggling to find workers for key trades.[5]

Demand outstripping availability.

In particular, 38% of builders were struggling to hire bricklayers and 34% were struggling to hire carpenters. KPMG reported that demand for workers rose at its fastest rate in May for more than 23 years, but the number of workers able to fill this increase in demand fell at the quickest rate since 2017. [1]

Protect what you do have.

We know that competition is fierce, with the best prepared ready to swoop in and pick up work others can’t, and getting the right supplies combined with the human workforce component has never been more key. While supply can be unreliable, as trusted tradesmen, it has become critical to focus on demand, and develop staffing contingency plans – particularly during ‘sickness season’ – to avoid the complications that delay or inability complete a job, and subsequent legal wrangling, can bring.

At A-Plan, while we can’t help you with supply and worker shortages, we do know how time-consuming finding the right commercial van insurance, and liability or indemnity insurance, can be. Getting this wrong can cost a business like yours thousands of pounds, and consume a huge amount of time, which can often be avoided with the right advice. Whether you run a large or small business, we are on-hand to manage your claims for you, as part of our service-as-standard, because we know how busy you are.

If you would like some expert advice, delivered with a down-to-earth and hassle-free approach, get in touch with your local branch via our website.


[1] Checkatrade boss warns of shortage of skilled trade workers – BBC News


[1] Eight in ten tradespeople see earnings rise following third UK lockdown – Professional Builder (probuildermag.co.uk)

[2] UK builders face challenges as demand continues to rise (simplybusiness.co.uk)

[3] Jewson warns of price rises amid shortage of building materials | Construction industry | The Guardian

[4] Construction Materials Shortage: Timber Supplies Increase | Homebuilding

[5] Federation of Master Builders | Shortages of materials and skills are holding builders back | Federation of Master Builders (fmb.org.uk)