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Eddie Tuttle is Director of Policy, External Affairs and Research at the Chartered Institute of Building.
July 31, 2023

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Proposed employment law changes could put construction workers’ lives at risk, says CIOB

CREDIT: Scott Graham/Unsplash

Eddie Tuttle at the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) says a government proposal to amend several areas within retained EU Law, in particular employment law, could have a detrimental impact on construction safety. 

While I understand red tape is a bone of contention for many, it is there to protect employees from harm. Alarming statistics show the construction industry leads the league table for frequency of work-related deaths with a total of 45 just in 2022 alone. In the same year, 40 people nationwide tragically died from falling from height while at work. That’s why CIOB is challenging the Government’s consultation around potential amendments within retained EU Law – namely within employment law.

New plans outline the Government’s intent to scrap the current record-keeping requirements for the Working Time Regulations, which requires employers to maintain an objective, reliable and accessible system that measures the duration of time worked each day for every worker. These records, which CIOB believes are essential, are required to ensure workers get their minimum daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours within each 24-hour period and a minimum uninterrupted period of 24 hours rest in every seven-day period. Restrictions on working time are not enforced and CIOB wants the Government to do more to enforce the restrictions rather than doing the opposite by removing record-keeping requirements and undermining businesses’ accountability for complying with the regulations.

In a high-risk industry like construction, where workers often use heavy and dangerous machinery and work from height, ensuring everyone has adequate rest between shifts should be the minimum expectation of employers. Put simply, by removing the need for these records to be kept and maintained, employees’ health is being put at risk. And it is not only workers’ physical wellbeing that could be at risk but also their mental state of mind. A CIOB report in 2020 revealed how long working hours made the biggest difference to construction workers’ wellbeing, followed by job uncertainty, tight deadlines, financial pressures, and working away from home. Almost half of those surveyed (48.3%) had taken time off work because of unmanageable stress and mental health issues, which had increased by 18% from the previous year. A concerning 26% of individuals reported they had experienced suicidal thoughts at least once during their career.

CIOB is equally concerned that pressure to work longer hours could also be more of a risk without records and this is of particular concern for workers who may be more vulnerable to exploitation, such as the high number of migrant workers in the sector.  After consultation with our members, I am also keen to challenge two other areas highlighted in the recent consultation.

Firstly, and on the subject of financial pressures, the Government is seeking views on potentially changing the way holiday pay is calculated. Under current law, employees are entitled to four weeks at normal pay (inclusive of overtime and bonuses) and a further 1.6 weeks at basic pay (pay excluding additional monies). Should the Government fall on the side of choosing basic pay for the full 5.6 weeks entitlement, construction workers – many of whom rely on overtime – could be left significantly out of pocket. We are also closely monitoring proposed amendments to the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE) that protect workers’ rights when their contract is transferred to a different employer. This is of particular importance given the high amount of contract transfers that take place within the construction industry.

In summary, one death at work is too many and the Government needs to do everything in its power to ensure construction workers can go home safely at the end of each working day. CIOB is adamant that time-keeping records must be maintained for the safety of everyone working in the industry and we are also asking the government to engage with all high-risk industries – such as ours – so that safety, rights, and of course pay are protected.

Eddie Tuttle is Director of Policy, External Affairs and Research at the Chartered Institute of Building.

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.

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Claire Deacon
Claire Deacon
9 months ago

and what is worse is the number of suicides in the sector 0 over 500 in 2021. More needs to be done.