Confidence amongst construction contractors is at a three year high, according to a new survey, with 48 per cent of respondents saying they feel confident about the year ahead. However, behind this upbeat outlook is a workforce under immense strain with close to half (41 per cent) 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 annual survey, by employee benefits company ECIS, found that over a quarter of tradespeople regularly worked evenings and weekends in 2015 with 60 per cent saying they had felt more pressure to do so in the last year.
But despite working longer hours, 58 per cent had to turn work away in 2015 and, shockingly, 38 per cent 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, with only 35 per cent saying they earned more in 2015 compared to the year before. Contractors are generally feeling more confident about 2016 as a result of a series of major construction projects underway. The market is set to become busier still with a focus by the government on housebuilding and recent proposals to create competition for handling planning applications and a fast track application process.
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 per cent have had to turn to unskilled labour which is a particularly alarming statistic.
Although this will undoubtedly pile on further industry pressure in terms of training and ensuring people taken on have the right level of competence to undertake the work needed, the construction industry has a duty of care to contractors and clients alike. 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 is vital that they remain focused on health and safety and where necessary take the sensible but difficult decision to turn work away rather than risk a costly claim for negligence.