A recent Work Audit report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has pointed out that the rate of self-employed UK workers has risen to a record high of 4.14 million, meaning that 14.2 per cent of workers are working for themselves.
According to the report, titled The Rise in Self-Employment, construction workers make up almost a quarter of this statistic.
“The typical self-employed person in Britain today remains a skilled tradesman, manager or professional working long hours on the job, but since the start of the recession the ranks of the self-employed have been swelled by people from a much wider array of backgrounds and occupations, including many ‘handymen’ without skills, picking up whatever bits and pieces of work are available,” says CIPD chief economic advisor Dr. John Philpott.
While self-employment is rising, there is a correlating statistic creating anxiety in the construction sector.
According to the UK Construction Index, the rate of construction workplace deaths involving self-employed workers has also risen.
The Health and Safety Executive notes that of the 49 construction workplace deaths that occurred between 2011 and 2012, 22, or 45 per cent of these were fatalities of self-employed construction workers.
This is a rise of nearly 10 per cent from 36 per cent recorded in 2010-2011. It also tops the most recent high of 38 per cent in 2008/2009.
According to Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT) general secretary Steve Murphy, the rise in construction workplace fatalities is directly related to lower safety standards regarding small-scale construction units.
“This rise in deaths among self-employed workers is very worrying,” he says. “Self-employed workers frequently work on sites where safety levels are lower and are therefore more vulnerable to suffering an accident or injury.”
Painting an even bleaker picture UCATT believes this number may actually be a conservative estimate, with workers’ employment status not always precise for varying reasons.
It would seem that while the rise in ‘handyman’ style construction workers is helping to lower the UK’s unemployment figures, the safety risks associated with these more relaxed practices are too great to ignore.