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

Why modern slavery is a threat to your construction business, and how you can stamp it out

The total number of people enslaved by region

Date Published: 20.11.2014

There have been a number of news articles lately on modern day slavery and the construction sector does not escape this focus. In 2013, 53 potential UK victims were identified in the construction industry and this is very likely to be the tip of the iceberg.

Besides ethical and moral considerations there is a very real business case for investigating modern day slavery in the supply chain – the Modern Day Slavery Bill is currently going through parliament and will require big businesses to publically state each year what action they have taken to protect against slavery. This is requiring pro-active responses.

So how then can you address this challenge?

Firstly, we must understand that for most people the idea of slavery (or ‘gang-mastering’ as we commonly recognise it on construction sites) is abhorrent; so much so that we would often fail to recognise it even if the symptoms were plainly obvious.

For example, in a conversation with a site manager when we outlined this issue and how it was used in industry his response was, “I used to regularly use a ‘slab gang’ who could provide labour and materials for less than I could get the concrete with my own main contractor discount – I really should have looked into that”.

You see, it’s not that the industry doesn’t care that gang-mastering exists, it’s that the idea is too horrible to imagine it happening on our sites so we assume it is not.

Luckily we can help, if you want to know more about how you can recognise the signs of gang mastering get in touch, after all its forward thinking businesses that will be catching the eye of public sector procurement advisers.


CMA, 2014 Finalist

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5 ways to promote fairness, inclusion and respect through your supply chain

Chrissi3-300x202We are often asked how best to promote fairness, inclusion and respect through supply chains. It can be a tricky business; the wrong decisions can cost your supply chain thousands and push them further backwards. It’s therefore important to understand how you can be most effective, what help is available and more importantly, how you can make sure fairness, inclusion and respect is seen as a business improvement tool, not a hurdle to jump over.

Here are five ways; you can…

  1. Treat them with respect. You must practice what you preach, if you are not fair to your supply chain how can you ask them to be fair to theirs? Often late payments drive a false self-employment model in sub-contracting companies which make fairness, inclusion and respect difficult to achieve; therefore the biggest impact to your supply chain might be to ensure your have a fair payment policy. This might sound like a big step but with the current skills shortage, becoming known as an ‘employer of choice’ could provide a winning long-term strategy for everyone.
  2. Listen to them. You won’t find out how to effectively support your supply chain unless you build trust with them. This will enable them to tell you the barriers they might face in creating an inclusive and fair culture. This is especially important if the barriers are something that you might be able to influence.
  3. Encourage them. Recognise their best practice and celebrate it, not just as part of the tender (though this should be part of it) but also on site, in your internal and external newsletters and in your publicity. You’ll be surprised how much people appreciate it when you notice their hard work.
  4. Support them. Appreciate your supply chain is usually smaller than you, which can make it harder for them to do the leg-work. So why not hold on-site training days to decrease the cost for staff – create  toolbox talks (or use Constructing Equality Ltd.’s free ones) around fairness, inclusion and respect for them, or direct them towards industry tools such as the CITB Be Fair framework.  Be Fair provides supporting documents and action plans that reduce the resource and labour cost to the business and attracts funding to cover financial costs.
  5. Value them. Make sure fairness, inclusion and respect forms part of your invitation to tender whether or not it’s asked for by the client. Ensure companies know that if they do take up this agenda you will consistently reward them for it. Use tools such as CITB’s Be Fair framework which includes a behavioural assessment to ensure they are doing what they say they are doing and not just completing the right paper work.

Then, once you’ve done all of that tell us so that we can promote your best practice and let you gain a little recognition for all of your hard work…