Coalition of UK construction trade bodies reveal ‘devastating’ mental toll caused by late payments

A leading trade organisation has called for systemic payment abuse in the construction industry to be ‘stamped out’, after recent research found that ‘significant’ mental health problems are caused by the pressures of late or unfair payments.

The survey, led by the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) and the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA) in collaboration with 25 other construction trade bodies, found that nine out of ten business owners in the UK construction industry suffer from a range of mental health issues due to payment issues and other business pressures.

80% of respondents reported feeling stressed because of late or unfair payment, while 40% said they experience anxiety, 38% extreme anger, 36% depression, 36% insomnia, 10% said they have had suicidal thoughts, and four respondents said they had attempted suicide.

Alongside mental health issues, 41% said that unfair payment practices caused a strain on their relationship with their partner, with 5% saying that it resulted in the relationship breaking down entirely.

The survey also revealed that 92% of respondents have experienced late payments, while 65% said that they are paid late regularly. BESA and ECA say that unfair payment practices has a ‘significant impact’ on employees across businesses, in addition to CEOs, directors, managers and executives.

David Frise, BESA CEO, commented, “Systemic payment abuse causes broken lives and broken buildings and must be stamped out. The economic damage of these practices is well known but this survey has shed light onto its devastating human cost. Thousands of owners and workers of SMEs have struggled and suffered with this abuse for too long and with a General Election underway they will be reflecting upon who will most likely represent their concerns.”

ECA director of CSR, Paul Reeve, said, “Everybody expects business to deal with everyday pressures, but stress and other mental health impacts come from sustained and excessive pressure. It’s absolutely clear from these findings that poor payment is a serious cause of mental health issues across the industry and that the problem, far from being isolated to certain individuals, is commonplace among top management.

“These problems quickly knock on to employees and families alike. Findings such as these mean that clients and other buyers need to greatly improve their approach to supply chain payment and it’s a sad reflection on the industry that it will probably take legislation to achieve it.”

The supporters of the survey are all part of a wider industry coalition pressing the UK Government to reform the practice of cash retentions in the construction industry.

ECA director of business, Rob Driscoll, said, “The next Government must take immediate action on cash retentions and other payment abuses, by legislating for change. Doing so will help to address the serious findings in this survey and actually help construction to achieve its aspirations of delivering excellence for clients and being an industry that’s attractive to new talent.”