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PRESS RELEASE: A more flexible future for construction?

Four major construction employers join forces to explore how to build a better work-life balance, for 13,400 workers

construction workers
  • Bam Construct, Bam Nuttall, Skanska and Willmott Dixon join forces on a ground-breaking new initiative to identify what measures will best enhance flexible working for the 13,400 people they collectively employ1.
  • Build UK is working with flexible working consultancy Timewise to galvanise the industry to take action on flexible working and help create a more diverse workforce.
  • Led by Timewise, and steered by Build UK, the Construction Pioneers programmehas been designed around 4 aims:
  1. Pilot new approaches to make flexible working ‘work’ in the construction industry.
  2. Help the industry attract and retain talent, and tackle skill shortages.
  3. Help employers become more inclusive.
  4. Share insights to influence wider industry change.

New research reveals that less than 5 per cent of front-line construction jobs offer any kind of flexibility when advertised – 10 per cent below the UK cross-industry average.2

Timewise (Timewise.co.uk), the flexible working consultants today launch the Construction Pioneers programme – a bespoke action research project looking at how to re-design jobs and shifts in site-based roles, to enable more flexible working in the construction industry.

The programme has been designed specifically for construction businesses that seek to maximise the productivity benefits of workplace flexibility and diversity. The first four trailblazing Construction Pioneers to take part, who will run live on-site pilots are: Bam Construct, Bam Nuttall, Skanska and Willmott Dixon.

Shift-based environments often have specific operating constraints that make it harder for employers to offer truly flexible jobs. Recent Timewise research found that less than 5 per cent2 of adverts for frontline construction jobs contain any reference to flexible working options when advertised. This falls 10 per cent points short of the UK cross-industry average (15 per cent). And yet there is key demand from the workforce for better flexibility.

The project will:

  1. Focus on onsite jobs, i.e. those which are typically seen as roles that cannot be done flexibly.
  2. Explore how to design roles with flexibility built-in.

Insights from the project will be shared in a bid to help meet a range of goals in the industry such as improving overall wellbeing and mental health; helping tackle the long-hours culture; attracting a diverse talent pool, including more women, and retaining more men, particularly in later life.

Timewise’s Innovation Unit, which creates in-depth flexible working pilot programmes specifically for challenging sectors for flexibility, aims to work with the Construction Pioneers to trial new ways to structure and manage shifts.

Following a detailed diagnostic, the four Pioneers will undertake a 12-16 month guided programme including workshops and training sessions, and mentoring and consultancy support to help introduce better flexible working. These pilot case studies will help the development of an industry-wide toolkit.

Quotes

Emma Stewart MBE, CEO and co-founder of Timewise, says: “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. Improving flexible working is a key way in which to tackle a whole range of key workforce and skills challenges.We’re delighted to be working with our inaugural Construction Pioneers, Bam Construct, Bam Nuttall, Skanska and Willmot Dixon, and with Build UK, to test and share how to make flexible working truly work in construction.”

Suzannah Nichol MBE, chief executive of Build UK, says: “The construction sector has recognised, and acknowledged, that it needs to recruit and retain a much more diverse workforce to create the world we all live in and rely on.  The challenge is to create a working environment that enables men and women from all backgrounds to realise their full potential in an industry offering a fantastic choice of rewarding careers whilst meeting their work life balance requirements.  This is not something we can do on our own and Timewise is leading the way in enabling major industries to change the way they operate.”

Harvey Francis, Skanska Executive Vice President of Skanska comments: “We are delighted to be part of this flexible working pilot. For too long our industry has struggled with how working patterns outside of the traditional norm can be accommodated.  This hasn’t helped us in our desire to attract and retain a greater diversity of people, which we believe is critical to our long term sustainability and success.  A great opportunity.”

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. 

“Our construction industry makes a positive difference to so many lives. As a leading contractor BAM believes the industry must provide more flexible working arrangements to attract and retain high quality, diverse talent to deliver the fantastic projects we are so proud of.”

“I am excited that BAM is part of this pioneering project and taking these first steps to reshape the future of our industry. We will all come to benefit from these essential changes.”

Alasdair Henderson, BAM Global Director HR Business Partnering, said: At BAM we consider ourselves to be innovators, and we’re looking forward to breaking new ground for people in our industry. Discovering ways of working flexibly, that successfully support employees, will help people stay in construction and engineering careers, and open these opportunities up for more people, unlocking barriers to increase diversity.

I’m excited that BAM is part of this pioneering project to challenge the ‘norm’ and take these first steps to reshape the future of our industry. As well as benefiting individuals, these essential changes to increase flexibility and diversity, will allow teams to achieve better outcomes for our business, and value for our customers, as we create sustainable solutions.”

Clare Williams, Head of People Operations at Willmott Dixon comments: At Willmott Dixon we always put people at the heart of what we do. We believe that helping our people to achieve a balance between their working life and personal life is central to their wellbeing.  We’ve already made great strides in our journey to embed agile working and our people are telling us that they are more supported to work agilely now than ever before, but by working together with Build UK and Timewise we hope to be able to build on this and see a real step change in our industry.”

Flexible working in construction – facts and stats

  • There are 2.4m jobs in the construction industry, representing 6.8 per cent of all the jobs in the UK.3
  • 42% of workers are living with or trying to cope with mental health issues. Death from suicide among construction workers is 10 times more frequent than from accidents, and 25% of construction workers have considered taking their own lives.4
  • Nearly half, 45.5% of the construction industry workforce are estimated to be over 55.5
  • Around 13% of the construction industry workforce is made up of women (240,000). But the vast majority work in professional or administrative roles.  Just 7,000 women work in skilled and unskilled manual roles.6

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Jo Burkill:
t: 0207 633 4553 m: 07960 472 097 / e: jo.burkill@timewise.co.uk


Notes to editors:

1Total number of employees at: Bam Construct, Bam Nuttall, Willmott Dixon and Skanska, based on figures given in September 2019.

2The Flexible Jobs Index by Timewise, 17 September 2019. The Flexible Jobs Index 2019 is based on analysis of nearly 5 million job adverts from over 450 UK job boards in the period January to April 2019. The data source is Gartner and jobs were filtered using 16 keywords relating to different forms of flexible working e.g. ‘part-time’, ‘flexible working’ ‘job share’, ‘home working’ ‘term-time’ etc. The following job types were excluded from the analysis: temporary jobs, self-employed, commission only, freelance. Additional data adjustments have been made to discount job adverts where flexible working is mentioned, but not as an employee benefit. UK cross-industry average: 15 per cent of UK job ads contain any reference to flexible working options. Of all frontline construction jobs advertised, less than 5 per cent referenced any kind of flexibility within the ad itself.

3 There are 2.4 million construction industry jobs in the UK in Q3 2018, 6.8% of all UK jobs. Source: p.7, Construction industry: statistics and policy report, available from the House of Commons Library, 27 December 2018, available here https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/SN01432#fullreport

4  Assessment by HPC and Duradiamond Healthcare, as published in The Guardian as part of a special focus on mental health in construction, 14 August 2019 https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/aug/13/no-more-man-up-better-mental-health-hinkley-point-c 

5 1 in 5 construction industry workers are estimated to be over 55-years-old,. Source: Nomis, 2018, as quoted in CITB’s Fuller Working Lives report https://www.citb.co.uk/documents/research/fuller-working-lives-in-construction.pdf

6 Source: Fuller Working Lives in Industry, produced by CITB, October 2018: https://www.citb.co.uk/documents/research/fuller-working-lives-in-construction.pdf see p.11

About Timewise

Timewise (www.timewise.co.uk) is the UK’s flexible work specialist. Run by a team of innovative thinkers and opinion formers, we support employers to design flexible solutions that attract, retain and develop the best talent. From conducting research and creating programmes for change, to delivering market-leading training and consultancy, we’re on a mission to make flex the new normal. We also help match flexible hirers and candidates through our bespoke jobs board, Timewise jobs.

About Build UK

Build UK is the leading representative organisation for the UK construction industry. By bringing together Clients, Main Contractors, Trade Associations representing over 11,500 Specialist Contractors and other organisations committed to industry collaboration, Build UK represents in excess of 40% of UK construction.

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