Vicki Leslie discusses the value of health cover for construction workers as a skills shortage is adding pressure.
It is no secret that the construction sector is facing a skills crisis; according to the Construction Industry Barometer, nearly half of firms (45 per cent) said a lack of skilled workers available to meet market demand would be a barrier to growth.*
While bricklayers in particular seem to be in demand, with over half of companies saying they are struggling to hire within the trade, in the third ECIS Annual Healthcheck of the UK's contractors and tradespeople***, we found that nearly a third of the construction industry struggled to find skilled people within the past year.
Just to underline the severity of the issue, over half of the workers we spoke to in the construction industry had to turn away work as a result of the skills crisis.
So what impact does this have on the health and well-being of contractors and the construction industry as a whole?
A significant factor is that added pressure often means added stress - which can impact workers both physically and mentally.
In our survey 64% of workers said they were under increased pressure compared to the year prior. It's vital employers recognise the signs of stress and take a ‘prevention rather than cure' approach to workload management.
If there are not enough skilled workers in the construction industry, it is imperative to look after the health of the skilled staff we do have.
If workers suffer from ill health as a result of increased pressures, whether this be stress or an accident caused by staff who have not been properly trained, then waiting for treatment could see skilled employees absent from work for a long period of time.
With NHS waiting times to see a doctor predicted to hit two weeks****, employers need to ensure that specialist health support is there for physical or psychological ailments, through health insurance propositions.
This will protect skilled workers, making sure they are fit and well to return to work at such a crucial time.
In a highly competitive labour market, the challenge is to attract and retain skills. With competition currently so fierce and salary demands so high, employers are under pressure to persuade people to join or stay when the worker in question probably has a number of other offers on the table.
It's not always down to the highest salary - people are going to stay with companies that look after them, by offering a range of benefits over and above their salary.
Training, pensions and healthcare programmes, from dental plans to full scale health insurance cover, will all help to create a compelling package of benefits, helping staff feel valued and engaged.
In the construction sector, where physical health is inextricably linked to the job function, healthcare benefits are valued by both employer and employee - ensuring early diagnosis, speed of treatment and a return to work at the earliest opportunity.
We would encourage employers in the construction industry to think about how they can differentiate themselves in the competition for skills. Money speaks for many workers but can you ever put a price on being healthy?
*** ECIS surveyed 200 roofers, electricians, plumbers, heating and ventilation engineers, joiners, plasterers, decorators and general builders from all parts of the UK about their health, wellbeing and prospects for the coming year. The survey took place in the first quarter of 2016.
**** The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/jan/14/uk-housebuilding-held-up-lack-bricklayers-report-rics
Vicki Leslie is client relationship manager at ECIS
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