Half of UK tradespeople have delayed or refused work because of the materials shortage

The materials shortage has plagued the UK trade industry for two years, and now new research has revealed the stark impact that this has had on workers in the sector.

The study, conducted by IronmongeryDirect, found that more than three-quarters (78%) of tradespeople have struggled to source materials that they’ve needed in the past year.

As a result, almost half (46%) have had to delay or turn down work, and nearly a fifth (19%) have been forced to let customers down after committing to jobs.

When asked which specific materials they’ve found difficult to find, the most common replies were paint (21%), timber (19%) and steel (17%).

The 10 materials that UK tradespeople found the hardest to source in the last year were:

  • Paint (21%)
  • Timber (19%)
  • Steel (17%)
  • Blocks (14%)
  • Bricks (13%)
  • Coatings (13%)
  • Semi-conductors (13%)
  • Plasterboard (12%)
  • Cement (12%)
  • Microchips (12%)

Unfortunately, more than one in five (22%) respondents said that they can’t see the shortage easing, and that they believe problems will continue into 2023.

Inflation is the main factor they blame (20%), with record levels driving up prices across the board and affecting the supply chain.

The impact of COVID-19 (17%), rising energy costs (15%) and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (15%) are also perceived to be responsible.

While the shortage has been felt across the industry, some trades have struggled to source materials more than others. The study found that plasterers (92%), surveyors (88%) and joiners (87%) have been hit the hardest.

Roofers, however, are the most likely workers to have had to turn down work (60%) as a result of the issue.

Dominick Sandford, Managing Director at IronmongeryDirect, says: “The materials shortage continues to be one of the industry’s main challenges, with workers across all trades finding it hard to source what they need to meet the demand for their services.

“The impact is felt in many ways – financially, as many have had to refuse work as a result, but also personally, as our recent Mental Health in the Trades report found that the shortage is one of the main causes of stress for tradespeople in 2022.

“In recent weeks, there have been signs of the situation easing slightly, so hopefully things will continue to improve as the year goes on.”

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