Zak Garner-Purkis

Ciara writes:

I was delighted to once again chair the REC construction sector event in London on Tuesday 12 November.

We had an absolutely packed and diverse agenda.

Lewina Farrell
Lewina Farrell

The event kicked off with Lewina Farrell, REC lawyer. Lewina updated us on the forthcoming changes to IR35 legislation in April 2020. Companies need to undertake a self-assessment of how the legislation will impact them and start engaging with their clients now. Organisations need to do some cost modelling on how this might affect them – do they need to increase charge rates, decrease margins or decrease pay rates? A commercial view will need to be taken by all those that fall inside the legislation.

She also updated us on the Conduct regulations. Recent audits by the EAS have highlighted a number of construction agencies that need to review their processes and compliance. The REC online legal guide provides lots of advice and model terms that can be used for this. Lewina also reminded everyone about the forthcoming changes to the conduct regulations: all job seekers will be entitled to a key information document outlining their expected terms and rates.

Fergus Harradence
Fergus Harradence

We then heard from Fergus Harradence, the deputy director, construction, at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Fergus provided some social and political context around the state of the economy at both national and sector level. The general election and divisive Brexit issues are placing extraordinary pressure on consumer and investor confidence. UK business is facing huge impacts from both national and international decisions.

Zak Garner-Purkis, head of content at Construction News, spoke about research that he had conducted on labour exploitation in the construction sector. He advised how companies can spot the signs, and where they can gain additional support. Zak gained first-hand accounts from East European slave-labour victims, and details of fragmented supply chains that have allowed modern slavery to infiltrate large-scale prestigious projects in the UK. He has recently been shortlisted for a British Journalism award for this story.

Fran Findlater
Fran Findlater

Last up was Fran Findlater, CEO of BounceBack, a social enterprise providing sustainable employment for ex-offenders. She described the rehabilitation, employability and construction skills programmes that their learners can convert into meaningful and sustainable employment upon release or during ROTL. This is not only a pathway for increasing talent pipelines for our industry, but also delivers social value through reduced re-offending rates. This is something that VGC has been very involved in: we are happy to share our experiences of our ‘Go beyond the gates’ programme with anyone who is interested.

We were delighted to have such engaging speakers at the event, along with a meaningful question and answer session with the construction sector members.

Many thanks to Tom Hadley, REC director of policy and campaigns, and Christopher Hartley, REC policy advisor, for coordinating the meeting.

The next REC Construction sector meeting will be in May 2020.

Ciara Pryce
Author: Ciara Pryce, group services director
Main photograph: Zak Garner-Purkis