- Sub-contractors have to wait up to three months to get paid, which can mean making staff redundant, but more likely moving to a self-employed model of work. Whilst there are up-sides to this for those who enjoy true self-employment, there is a dirty dark side. Harvey  found a large number of people working in construction were falsely self-employed, meaning they had no choice over the hours they worked (the same as a regular employee), but did not receive employee benefits such as holiday pay, sick pay and employment rights. In the very worst cases, the situation was used to pay people less than minimum wage. This isn’t to say that this happens to everyone everywhere, but it does happen and late payments encourage that. As a site manager once said to me, “we once employed a team to supply and pour concrete for less than we could buy it with our own substantial discount – we really should have looked into that.”
- As a site manager bad subbies would make my life very difficult, and it’s pretty likely that a underpaid, unfairly treated person is not going to be a pleasure to work with – the worse we treat people the worse they behave. Don’t believe me? Look at your own reactions – very few people can smile in the face of constant disadvantage; obviously I’m not including Preston fans. This means our lives are made increasingly difficult, subcontractors are harder to work with and yet we have the same, if not shorter, time frames to do it all in. Not exactly great for our blood pressure.
- If, as often happens, a sub-contractor goes under due to late payments, someone is needed to come in last minute which is never easy to find, creating additional headaches and cost. Quite often, more cost than would have been saved if the subbie had been paid on time in the first place.
- The image of the industry also slips again; stories of late payment, subbies going under and false self-employment create a bleak picture of the industry and of those who work in it, which ultimately feeds the client view.
For all things construction and equality; get yourself over to Constructing Equality Ltd.
The situation will not get better without some sort of effective intervention. This need not be massively costly or take an age to bring about.
On behalf of StreetwiseSubbie and the Nationwide Alliance of Specialist Contractors, I have produced a Fair Treatment Charter. This is a simple set of protocols, which if adopted throughout the industry would achieve a much fairer, more open and honest approach to payment throughout the entire supply chain.
It would be a simple matter to make the Fair Treatment Charter applicable to the contractual relationship between every party in publicly funded contracts, and to amend the Construction Act to make them applicable to every “Construction Contract”.
The Fair Treatment Charter is available to download on our web site at; http://www.streetwisesubbie.com/fair-treatment-charter