In its third Annual Healthcheck of the UK’s contractors and tradespeople*, ECIS, the employee benefits company for the construction industry has found confidence at its highest level since the survey began three years ago with 48% of respondents saying they feel confident about the year ahead. But behind this upbeat outlook is a workforce under immense strain with close to half (41%) saying their business was under increased pressure to fulfil contracts.
Reflecting the increased demand for their skills, many tradespeople saw their work/life balance tip heavily towards work in 2015. The survey found that over a quarter of tradespeople regularly worked evenings and weekends in 2015 with 60% saying they had felt more pressure to do so in the last year.
But despite working longer hours, shockingly, 58% had to turn work away in 2015, and more worryingly, 38% confirmed they had resorted to unskilled labour to help fulfil contracts.
Even more galling for tradespeople is that the hard work did not equate to higher earnings for all. While 35% earned more in 2015 compared to the year before. This is a slight decrease from the 40% who earned more in 2014 compared to 2013.
Commenting on this year’s Healthcheck, Phil Scarrett, Sales and Marketing Director for ECIS, says, “Despite the fact that fewer tradespeople saw their earnings going up last year compared to the year before, contractors are generally feeling more confident about 2016 than they did this time last year. And you can see why with a series of major construction projects underway and the knock on effects of this. Plus a focus by the UK Government on housebuilding. Just in the past week we have seen new proposals to create competition for handling planning applications and a fast track application process**.
“However, the fact that 22% of tradespeople would not encourage young people to enter the industry underlines the struggle many people in the trade are facing between earning a living, managing customer demands and having a life outside of work. There is no shortage of work to go around but serving that demand is evidently a source of significant pressure for tradespeople – so much so that 38% have had turn to unskilled labour.
“This can add further pressure in terms of training and ensuring people taken on have the right level of competence to undertake the work needed. 2015 saw the introduction of the new Construction Design and Management Regulations which puts new requirements on the contracting sector to support risk management and part of this is having the right people for the right job at the right time. For many contractors, this is so much easier said than done but it’s vital they remain focused on health and safety and where necessary continue to take the brave and difficult decision to turn work away.”