November 5, 2019

Could flexible working in the construction industry create a more diverse pool of talent?

News Article

A new trial hopes to prove that the construction sector can successfully adopt flexible working arrangements for site-based roles.

According to the latest edition of Construction Enquirer, Bam Construct, Bam Nuttall, Skanska and Willmott Dixon will be working with consultant, Timewise, on the Construction Pioneers programme which will be tested live over a 16-month period, across a number of UK sites.

The consultant and four construction companies plan to test new ways of timetabling and managing shift patterns to discover whether flexible working can work successfully for all concerned– an arrangement which the industry has, until now, found difficult to successfully adopt.

Timewise CEO Emma Stewart said: “Many people think flexible working in the construction industry, with its long hours culture, deadline-driven mentality and physical demands, is simply impossible.

“Timewise has been working with organisations in other industries, such as the NHS and the British Retail Consortium, who face similar challenges – and seen real change take hold.”

It is hoped that the trial will help to tackle the sector’s negative culture of long hours, whilst also encouraging applications from a more diverse talent pool and helping to improve mental health amongst workers.

Andrea Singh, Executive Director of BAM Construct UK, said: “It has long been thought that making flexibility work on site is just too complicated.

“Our industry, however, has many creative teams and individuals who can solve the most challenging problems. Together we can, and will, find a solution.

“People are increasingly looking for flexible work so they can balance their home and work life for a variety of reasons.

“There’s huge benefits to be gained for people who need this flexibility in an industry which is facing severe skills shortages.”

Samantha Randall, a solicitor with Palmers who specialises in employment law, said: “Any initiative which encourages employee wellbeing and better mental health as a result of an enhanced work life balance, is to be welcomed.

“Flexible working arrangements and job share opportunities can work very successfully in any sector but to ensure that the arrangement will work for all parties concerned and to avoid any confusion, it is important that new or amended contracts are worded clearly.

“It is also worth remembering that employees already have a legal right to request flexible working and whilst an employer does not have to accede to their request they must be able to justify why it would be detrimental to the business.

“If this current trial proves to be a success, it will be increasingly difficult for an employer to dismiss a request by claiming that such working arrangements are not practical option in the construction sector.”

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