There are just a few weeks to go before the country heads to the polling stations, and infrastructure is a hot political topic. So how are specialist recruiters feeling about the outlook for the sector? The insight from members at the latest REC Construction meeting – hosted by REC Business Partners Howden Group – provided a timely stock-take of challenges and opportunities in the sector.
Keeping up to speed with political and regulatory developments will drive competitive advantage
Unsurprisingly, Brexit and the election are big topics of discussion, with access to staff and immigration policy specific areas of concern. At the same time, Good Work legislation will introduce new obligations for recruiters from 6 April 2020 onwards. The government has published guidance on both the Key Information Document (which cannot be opted out from) and the repeal of Swedish derogation contracts. The feedback from members is that being ahead of the game on compliance and awareness of regulatory changes is a good source of competitive advantage. Members can find REC guidance here.
IR35 changes and other external developments are creating new challenges in the sector
The clear message for construction recruiters is that IR35 changes will take precedence over CIS, which is a big shift for the sector. The REC is continuing to push for a delay, whilst ensuring that members are as prepared as possible for the current April 2020 implementation date. The immediate priority is to engage and raise awareness amongst clients and individual contractors. Other external developments in the sector include the VAT Reverse Charge, insurance and building safety post-Grenfell.
Government policy must support the sector
REC members were able to engage with Fergus Harradence, Deputy Director for infrastructure within the Department for Business, at the meeting. The government’s Construction Sector Deal, a £36 million investment to develop technology, promote skills and apprenticeships, and boost growth in the sector, could provide new opportunities for specialist recruiters. Infrastructure investment has already been a theme in the run-up to the election, but more needs to be done to put people at the heart of industrial strategy. This is a core message of our ‘Making Great Work Happen’ manifesto.
Addressing modern slavery is shared mission
Speaking at the sector meeting was Zak Garner-Purkis of Construction News. He argued that “recruiters are on the front line of the jobs market and can play a major role in identifying signs of modern slavery”. The REC is a partner of Stronger Together and works closely with the GLAA and other regulators to combat labour exploitation.
Reaching out to under-represented groups is a win-win
Specialist recruiters can help to address labour and skills shortages in the sector by working with organisations like the Bounce Back project, which helps ex-offenders build careers in the sector. Speaking at the sector group meeting, Francesca Findlater, Bounce Back’s CEO, argued that “specialist recruiters and employers can make a positive change by supporting ex-offenders to succeed through work”. The REC supports the Ban the Box campaign and is also calling for reform of the apprenticeship levy so that it benefits workers on temporary contracts across all sectors.
There is plenty to reflect on as construction recruiters look ahead to the coming year. Ciara Pryce, Group Services Director at VGC Group and Chair of REC Construction, concluded the latest meeting by underlining the contribution that compliant businesses in the sector make to the economy and labour market. We will continue to champion this in 2020 and to showcase the role of REC Construction in making great work happen.