May 10, 2021

Around half of furloughed workers anxious about work return

Dominic Ellis
4 min
The Randstad survey also found 84% of construction workers remain concerned about COVID-19
The Randstad survey also found 84% of construction workers remain concerned about COVID-19...

Just under half (45%) of furloughed construction workers are anxious about returning to work and 84% have concerns about COVID-19, according to recruiter Randstad

A poll of almost 1,400 construction workers from across the UK found only 18% of those who had returned and classified their integration experience as “very good” were anxious.  In contrast, of those construction workers who had either no onboarding or an experience they regarded as either “poor” or “very poor”, 92% were anxious on their return to work. 

While a third of furloughed employees (34%) received either no (or very poor) onboarding on their return to work, this rose to 38% of employees in construction.  Manufacturing was better (27%) as was Rail where only 17% said they had no or very poor employee familiarisation.

Seventeen in every twenty (84%) construction workers in the UK say they have concerns about Covid-19 at work - comparable to the rail (81 per cent), engineering (83%) and manufacturing (85%).  By far the most common concern is catching the virus with 40% saying they are worried they will catch it at work while 38% are worried for their family’s health as a result. Three in every twenty (13%) say they are worried by its impact on their organisation.

Only 36% of those construction workers who had weekly check-ins with their organisations said they were nervous about returning to work, compared 46% who have bi-monthly check-ins or 67% who had no check-ins at all.

Adrian Smith, Senior Director of operations at Randstad UK said: “It’s worrying that such a high proportion of employees in sectors like construction aren’t getting the onboarding attention they deserve. Once construction rejoiced in a reputation for being quite old-fashioned.  But I thought we’d kicked the days of sub-standard HR in the industry into the long grass."

He added normally the onboarding process would be reserved for introducing newly hired employees into an organisation, but these aren’t normal times and workers who have been furloughed for a year will benefit from some help integrating back into the wider company.  

"It might be arduous for some teams who are spread pretty thin at the moment but while standard onboarding might be expected to last for a couple of weeks to be effective, post-furlough onboarding is much shorter. Done properly, it will help employees feel more confident and competent when they get back on the job.  It's about investing the time to protect well-being and to ensure a productive returning workforce," he said.

While furlough has changed the purpose of the check-in somewhat, the importance of keeping the lines of communication open remains undiminished, he added. "While check-ins should appear relatively casual to employees, even in these strange times, managers need to follow a loose structure to ensure the time is used wisely, including preparation and taking notes.”

Across the UK, the improvements in staff wellbeing driven by more regular check-ins shrank with age. Younger workers (18-35) with monthly check-ins were 13% happier than those with bimonthly check-ins. Middle aged employees were 12% happier while workers over 68 only saw a 5% uplift.

“While there’s still a strong correlation between the two, the positive impact regular check-ins make on employees’ well-being diminishes with their age," said Smith. "Older workers may be less likely to feel their boss is investing time in them and be more likely to feel their boss is wasting their time.  There’s a fine line between checking-in on a valued member of the team - and checking-up on them.”

The most popular solution chosen by construction employees for improving their wellbeing was training about mental health and resilience, with 55% favouring this option. While stress reduction workshops were also popular (50% of construction workers favoured these), less popular were the appointment of a workplace wellbeing champion (44%) and mindfulness training 43%. 

Travis Perkins recently announced it is on track to provide six times more Mental Health First Aiders (MHFAs) this summer than at the start of the year, increasing the number of accredited MHFAs from 40 to over 250.

Group HSE & Fleet Director for Travis Perkins, Richard Byrne, said: “Our MHFAs play a key role as ambassadors across all areas of wellbeing; to be the first port of call in the workplace for mental health support for colleagues, raise awareness and encourage positive behaviours amongst our workforce on a voluntary basis, and to identify signs of poor mental health and help individuals access professional support if they need it."

But he said it was made "very clear" that they are not there to diagnose or provide ongoing support or counselling.

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Jun 20, 2021

Contractor issues head disputes list in 2020: Arcadis report

Dominic Ellis
2 min
The average value of disputes globally rose to $54.26 million in 2020 - but the numbers were much the same as 2019, according to an Arcadis report

The average value of disputes globally rose from $30.7 million in 2019 to $54.26 million in 2020, while the length of disputes fell from 15 months in 2019 to 13.4 months, according to an Arcadis report.

The data, featured in Arcadis' 11th annual report, illustrates industry-wide ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic although interestingly the overall volume of disputes stayed relatively the same in 2020 as in 2019.

While trends in the value and length of disputes varied from region to region, all regions surveyed saw an increase in "mega disputes" related to bigger capital programs and private projects. Notably, more than 60% of survey respondents encountered project impacts due to COVID-19.

Owners, contractors, or subcontractors failing to understand and/or comply with their contractual obligations became the leading cause of construction disputes in 2020 (jumping from 3rd place in 2019), followed by owner-directed changes and third-party or force-majeure changes as the second and third-leading causes, respectively.

Highlights from the report include:

  • Proper contract administration was a theme across the globe for the successful and early resolution of disputes
  • Most disputes were settled through party-to-party negotiation, and a willingness to compromise played a key role in early resolution
  • Among regions surveyed, the buildings (education, healthcare, retail/commercial, government) sector saw the most disputes
  • In North America, construction dispute value rose from $18.8 million in 2019 to $37.9 million in 2020, while the length of disputes shortened from 17.6 to 14.2 months.

While cost and length have changed since 2019, risk management was still seen as the most effective claims avoidance tactic, while owner/contractor willingness to compromise was once again the top-ranked factor for the mitigation/early resolution of disputes.

"COVID-19 irrevocably changed every industry," said Roy Cooper, head of contract solutions for Arcadis North America. "Construction disputes experts will have to continue to adapt, even post-pandemic, as workforce expectations, climate events and government infrastructure funding change how projects are designed and contracted in the future."

The research presented in the report was compiled by Arcadis based on survey responses, global construction disputes the team handled in 2020 and contributions from industry experts.

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