The UK construction sector is experiencing the highest levels of demand in years as it strives to recover from the delays and disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Of course, this is good news for economic recovery, but David McCormack, CEO of HIVE360, says he is concerned for the mental health and welfare of workers as the sector looks to meet the resourcing challenge.
Workers in high demand
The construction sector needs an extra 217,000 workers by 2025 to meet the post-pandemic bounce-back. *According to the CITB’s Construction Skills Network, most English regions will experience an increase in construction workers, with the East Midlands (1.7%) and West Midlands (1.4%) set to lead demand*.
Over half (53%) of the 2.8 million people working in UK construction are self-employed, on an agency or zero-hours contract, so companies throughout the construction sector supply chain will inevitably turn to recruiters for help with finding and supplying workers.
The creation of new job opportunities is positive, but employers in the sector must follow best practice guidelines and be legally compliant – including with the new IR35 rules – to ensure existing and new workers are treated fairly.
Worker welfare and wellbeing
Globally, the construction industry has one of the poorest records for employee mental health and suicide. The UK’s Office for National Statistics reports the suicide rate in construction is over three times more than the national average – about 400 workers in the UK’s construction and engineering sectors take their own live each year.
UK construction workers are also vulnerable to modern slavery, which covers forced labour and human trafficking.
Modern slavery is the illegal exploitation of people for personal or commercial gain. It is estimated that there is a large number of people experiencing modern slavery within the UK construction industry**. Labour employed via sub-contractors or agents are considered most at-risk.
Last year, the government published its long-awaited response to its consultation on transparency in supply chains. Among the measures is a commitment to ‘mandating the key topics that modern slavery statements must cover’, with civil penalties for non-compliance anticipated in ‘due course’. In March 2021, the government launched a new online registry for modern slavery statements, to enable more informed scrutiny of an organisation’s approach to supply chains, with the comparative quality of statements available for all to see.
The risks from modern slavery can occur anywhere in a construction company’s operations – whether this is through direct employment, contractors or subcontractors – and can include failure to pay workers the UK minimum wage, and child labour in extended supply chains.
All construction workers have the right to control their wages, have a written employment contract, be paid on time, keep their passport, choose where they want to stay, change their job, or join a union. As well as this, they should be treated with respect, paid fairly and protected by the law.
The Construction Protocol
The Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), is a Non-Departmental Public Body of the UK Government, and a national enforcement agency whose role is to protect workers from labour exploitation.
To tackle modern slavery in the construction sector, the GLAA has collaborated with leading construction companies to create the Construction Protocol, which brings in the same measures and guidelines seen in the fresh food sector that protect the health and wellbeing of workers.
All signatories have agreed to raise awareness within supply chains to help to prevent and protect construction workers from exploitation or abuse, and take necessary steps to ensure exploitation and abuse of workers is recognised and addressed with appropriate safeguards put in place to ensure that exploitative practice is not repeated.
As a GLAA license holder and signatory of the Construction Protocol, HIVE360 is committed to helping participating companies with payroll and worker wellbeing.
HIVE360 is an expert in recruitment agency PAYE outsourced payroll, and our HMRC-compliant payroll solution guarantees a speedy and transparent service, with no nasty fees for workers. It also delivers efficiency gains from our payroll, digital payslips, pensions auto-enrolment and pay documentation support.
HIVE360 goes further with our unique customisable engagement app Engage.
Provided as a standard element of our outsourced payroll solution, Engage gives workers access to a range of health and wellbeing benefits and services: 24/7, confidential access to mental health support, counsellors and GPs, 1000s of high street and online discounts, huge mobile phone savings, online training resources, along with a secure digital payslips portal and a real-time workplace pension dashboard to support employees’ financial wellbeing. To ensure the safety of employees in the workplace, we have also introduced an incident reporting system which allows workers to raise serious issues or concerns with their employer directly through the app, anonymously if they choose to.
HIVE360 is an outsourced payroll and employee benefits expert that is championing a new model of employment administration and redefining employment and pension administration processing. Visit: www.hive360.com
*CITB: Construction Skills Network forecasts 2021-2025: UK
**GLAA: Construction Industry Protocol