Union says false employment denies workers their rights and are at greater risk of workplace injury

Tim Lezard

UCATTUCATT is calling for urgent action to tackle false self-employment in the construction industry after new figures from the Office of National Statistics revealed a major increase in self-employment.

The ONS found that since 2008 the number of self-employed workers across all industries has increased by 367,000. The occupations with the highest number of self-employed workers were taxi/cab drivers and chauffeurs, other construction trades, carpenters/joiners and farmers.

According to the ONS figures the number of self-employed workers in the construction industry comprises 44% of all workers.

UCATT general secretary Steve Murphy said: “The rise in self-employed construction workers is due to companies cutting costs by pretending workers are self-employed. False self-employment denies workers basic rights, denies the Treasury income, increases safety problems and threatens the long-term health of the construction industry”.

Companies using falsely self-employed workers avoid paying Employers National Insurance contributions of 13.8% per worker. The loss to the Treasury due to false self-employment in construction is estimated to be just under £2 billion per annum.

False self-employed workers are denied basic employment rights. They don’t receive holiday or sick pay, don’t receive pension payments and can be sacked at a moment’s notice. Self-employed workers are at greater risk of workplace injury and companies which use falsely self-employed workers are unlikely to train apprentices.

False-self-employment in construction is fuelled by the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) a unique stand-alone tax system. Unlike other forms of self-employment, workers are taxed at source but are entitled to make a self-assessment return.

In UCATT’s recent report into payroll companies The Great Payroll Scandal it was revealed that the number of workers operating under CIS over the last three years had increased by 30,000 from 740,000 to 770,000 at a time when the number of construction workers was falling due to the recession.

Steve Murphy said: “The government has got to stop putting its head in the sand. False self-employment is out of control in the construction industry. This is unfair on the workers who are denied their rights and on the companies that don’t cut corners and employ workers properly.”

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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