UK Government urged to protect self-employed workers

UNITE, the construction union, has called on the UK Government to extend its wage support scheme during the coronavirus pandemic to protect workers ‘trapped’ in ‘bogus’ self-employment in the building industry.

A freedom of information request made by Unite last year found that 1.03 million construction workers were paid via a construction industry scheme (CIS) in 2018/19, with the Union saying that the ‘vast majority’ were ‘bogusly’ self-employed and paid on a weekly basis. It added that a further 300,000 construction workers are paid through umbrella companies.

Unite has said that it is in the process of urging the UK Government to cover workers paid via CIS and through umbrella companies.

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said, “The UK’s bricklayers, carpenters, electricians and plumbers will be deeply worried that if they are officially self-employed they will not be protected by the government’s scheme.

“Most construction workers are the primary breadwinners in their family and swift action is needed to ensure that they are protected throughout the coronavirus crisis.

“Over half of the industry is officially self-employed, with most of those bogusly self-employed. This is part of the hire and fire culture existing in construction which results in workers being dumped without warning or compensation during downturns.

“In the short term the million plus workers paid via the Construction Industry  Scheme (CIS) and the 300,000 plus workers paid through umbrella companies must be brought into the scope of the government’s wage support scheme and Unite will be lobbying government to ensure that occurs.

“In the long term a commission is needed into construction employment to ensure that workers who survive on a feast and famine existence secure proper employment protections.”