The world isnt fair… but we should be

The CITB’s Be Fair framework is designed to help construction employers to embed fairness, inclusion and respect in their day-to-day activities. Michael Smyth, the head of human resources at £420m-turnover contractor Graham Construction, and Jean Duprez, manager at London-based decorating subcontractor K&M McLoughlin, explain what their companies have gained from Be Fair accreditation.

Jean Duprez
Michael Smyth










Why did you decide to go for Be Fair accreditation?

Michael Smyth We were looking to get diversity training for managers; it’s a key issue for the industry and for our business. So that’s how we heard about the framework. We did a pilot of some of the modules, then our Scottish division did a full pilot assessment. We’re now doing it across the UK for the whole business.

We wanted to know where we were compared with other organisations, and then to stretch ourselves. We got Bronze accreditation, but quite a number of our practices were Silver. To achieve that every site manager and operative has to be at that level so we aim to be at Silver in early to mid-2015.

Jean Duprez I am always looking at whatever we can do as a company to improve and give us an edge. I thought we did fairly well: we have this policy and that policy and I thought accreditation would be a breeze. Then I realised that although we had lots of policies, they weren’t used throughout the company.

For example, to work on the Olympics, we needed an equality and diversity policy, so we ticked that box. But when it came to how we advertised for staff, there were things in the policy that weren’t embedded in how we did things. Plus, although we don’t have a huge supply chain, we didn’t know how to pass those ideas on to them.

What exactly does achieving the accreditation involve?

MS It covers a wide range of things (see box). Part one is to do with recruitment and getting a diverse workforce. It’s about getting a variety of skills in our organisation – if you have the same thinking from the same people, you will end up with the same results. A big part is working with subcontractors and the supply chain to help them meet the standard. There is one module on how we work with the supply chain, and there are different modules for main contractors, smaller contractors and subcontractors. Going through the process with them makes it easier for them to get their own accreditation.

JD We had no policies on supply chain management, so I used the templates provided by Be Fair. Companies are signed up to a three-strikes policy, and they have to adhere to all the policies and practices of the Be Fair framework so we can keep an eye on what’s going right and wrong, for example with recruitment adverts.

We also used the templates ourselves. For example, when someone was leaving we had never before given them an exit interview. We had three staff leave in a year, and found out exactly why and if there was any way we could retain them.

How did you implement the changes?

MS Every site has a Be Fair champion, it could be a QS, a site manager or an operative, someone everyone feels they can talk to and who is a link between the site and the management team. They get training that we run, and all site operatives get an equality and diversity presentation. It’s also part of the staff induction process.

JD If you’re working in an office environment, you can call a meeting about equality and diversity policies. But conveying your message to operatives, foremen and supervisors across 25 sites is a huge challenge. We were sending them emails, but they weren’t opening them and not prioritising them. So we now print a newsletter, even though it costs money and uses paper.

What was the impact on your business?

MS In our employees’ engagement survey, the number saying that they believed the company was committed to equality and diversity rose by 5%. We also saw an increase in the number of job applicants, so people were thinking: if I go to that company, I’ll be treated well and I’ll be able to build a career. Our staff absence rate has decreased too. It was embraced enthusiastically by everyone, with very little resistance.

JD We changed the way our policies were operated and related. It made us a more open and transparent company. We now have a company that, from top to bottom, knows what it’s striving for. Our policies used to be five pages long, now they’re one page, but everyone knows what they are.

What will be the future for Be Fair?

MS There are lots of frameworks, but this one is run by the CITB and they understand what it’s like to work in construction and where we are on the journey. We’ve already got Investors in People, but in terms of diversity, to us this is the standard for the industry. If it becomes the standard everyone understands, then instead of us filling in a 30-page document for a tender, then we could simply say that we’ve got a Bronze or Silver.

JD As a company we have to do a lot of accreditations to work, such as CHAS, Achilles, Constructionline, and each costs a lot of money. But I would willingly pay my money to be part of Be Fair. To learn more, go to

What is the Be Fair framework?

The Be Fair framework is the CITB’s badge for fair working practices. Tailored versions are available for micro, small and medium-sized subcontractors, and small, medium and large main contractors. Other versions for clients, housing associations and house builders are coming.

The framework includes a full action plan for companies, along with all the supporting documents that they might need. Accreditation requires companies to pass five modules. These are: working with the supply chain; site environment; employment and recruitment; policies and procedures; leadership and strategy.

The CITB has two authorised providers. Constructing Equality offers Be Fair accreditation at Bronze, Silver and Gold levels, whereas SEE Training offers Bronze accreditation only.

A CITB incentive of £1,000 to the first 100 companies to gain accreditation – a sum likely to cover the assessment costs for any firm with fewer than 100 staff – is available via Constructing Equality.

The assessment process is run by two companies at the present: Liverpool-based Constructing Equality offers accreditation at Gold, Silver and Bronze levels, and SEE Things offers Bronze level accreditation.

First Published in Construction Manager

33 contractors set to receive ‘BeFair’ accreditation under new CITB scheme


The new BeFair accreditation scheme, which involves going through a rigorous assessment akin to attaining Investors in People has been developed by the CITB in association with Liverpool-based consultancy Constructing Equality to support the industry in developing fair and inclusive employment practices.

The two organisations have recently conducted a pilot scheme during which 40 companies were assessed and 33 accredited, made up of both small and large firms. Another five received conditional passes, said a CITB spokesman. The CITB declined to name those firms who had passed, but Vinci and Morgan Sindallwere two of the big names that took part.

The CITB is hoping that its new framework will help stamp out outdated and unacceptable practices in the sector which it has been highlighting over the last few weeks. In a latest analysis of data released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) it was found that, on average, women in construction are paid 12% less than their male counterparts in the same role. Among construction and building trades supervisors, the differential is as high as 33%.

Based on the hourly rates paid to men and women, the figures show pay discrepancies in construction and building trades supervisors of 33%; architects 25%; and electrical and electronic technicians 24%.

“The whole point of the new framework is that companies will need to demonstrate they are acting on these sorts of issues and make sure they are addressed,” added the CITB spokesman. Companies are under increasing pressure to demonstrate their inclusion and diversity credentials, particularly for clients in the public sector which is one reason the new scheme was oversubscribed when the pilots were announced last year with 148 firms initially registering interest.

Kate Lloyd, fairness, inclusion and respect manager for CITB said: “What possible justification can there be for paying men and women different rates for doing what, to all intents and purposes, is the same job? As an industry, we need to address this issue, and fast. If we fail to bridge these wage gaps, we won’t be able to attract women into this industry or keep them. It’s as simple as that. The BeFair Framework, which will launch in June, will help construction companies be more aware of fairness, inclusion and respect issues including equal pay. It will help us to challenge the outdated perceptions of the construction industry so that we can create the workforce of the future.”

It is understood that the CITB will tender for an operator to run the scheme and carry out the assessments.

Responding to the recent statistics on pay disparity, Roy Cavanagh MBE, training and education executive for Seddon, said: “As an industry, construction is crying out for talented women to get involved and take advantage of the career opportunities on offer.

“Currently women make up just 12% of the construction industry workforce, with a mere 1.2% working in the manual trades. To create a fairer and more inclusive workforce, we need to make sure that women get equal pay.”

The BeFair scheme offers a construction-specific alternative to the Investors in Diversity standard, and allows companies to gain accreditation at four different levels. It offers best practice guidance on recruitment, training, promotion, remuneration, work-life balance and subcontracting work.

Contractor Graham, one of the test companies, says it has already identified improvements across its business, especially among the workforce on site, in terms of morale, motivation and commitment to fairness, inclusion and respect for everyone.

The CITB framework enables companies to develop and progress as they move through accreditation levels. Level 1 involves simply complying with the Equality Act 2010 and other legislation, through to being a leading light for best practice in the sector at Level 4.

The framework is written in “strands” that segment the sector into its different types of organisations, such as clients, Tier 1 contractors and subcontractors.