Construction sector addresses HR issues
Organisations across the construction industry are increasingly facing more people challenges, relating to both their own workforce and their supply chain. Whether this means tackling poor diversity practices and skills shortages, or combatting exploitation and modern slavery, the reality is that all these HR issues are linked.
In response, the People Matter Charter has been created by the Supply Chain Sustainability School and its delivery partner Action Sustainability to help organisations up and down the supply chain bring these challenges together into one workforce strategy. The Charter has eight commitments that can apply to any organisation, of any size – and 24 have already signed up, ahead of the official launch in January.
The Charter launch is both vital and timely. In a sector that employs around 2.4 million people in the UK alone, plus seeks to recruit 157,000 new entrants by 2021, there is growing recognition that pressure is increasing on its most valuable resource, namely people, says Tony Hyland, Senior National Account Manager, DWP Caxton House: “The Department of Work and Pensions fully supports the work of Action Sustainability and the aspirations of the People Matter Charter. Only by demonstrating the highest ethical standards of employment can we expect to recruit, train and retain the workforce the construction sector needs for the future.”
The Charter has been two years in the making. In 2018, the School brought Partners together to identify what an organisation should have in place to treat people responsibly. The result is the People Matter Charter: eight commitments that signatories and their supply chain should be able to evidence.
The aim of the Charter is to address people issues, regardless of where they exist globally. From infrastructure and buildings, to homes and facilities management, these commitments apply equally to clients, principal contractors, labour agencies, subcontractors and suppliers – in effect, anywhere people are employed and managed.
For Neil Mant, Supply Chain and Procurement Director, VINCI Construction, the Charter not only provides a strategic focus at company level, but also signals a sector-wide shift that is urgently needed across construction:
“The People Matter Charter is an excellent way to formalise our commitment to how we engage with people at all levels. It gives us a framework that we can adopt and filter through our supply chain, demonstrating our intent as well as setting out some formal requirements. This is a movement that will commit businesses to behave responsibly and value all people that work in our industry.”
The Charter is divided into Requirements and Intents. Requirements are applicable to all and should be able to be demonstrated from day one upon signing the Charter. Intents apply throughout the supply chain to varying degrees and should show continuous improvement with a view towards best practice.
Together the eight commitments cover the following areas: Equality, diversity and inclusion, Skills and training; Workforce culture; Living Wage; Due diligence; Labour legal requirements; Labour exploitation; and Payments.
Collaboration is vital in helping protect workers’ rights, says GLAA Head of Business Change Samantha Ireland: “The People Matter Charter is an excellent way of highlighting some of the most common issues in preventing forced or compulsory labour. Helping businesses understand how to identify labour exploitation within their supply chains and comply with legislation around the National Minimum Wage and holiday pay is crucial in ensuring exploitative practices are not repeated across the industry. The Charter will raise standards and formalise much of the good work that exists within construction. We are supportive of collaborative approaches such as this which protect workers.”
Workplace experts Acas also contributed to development of the Charter, which delivers important potential benefits for employers, as well as employees, as Acas Chief Executive, Susan Clews explains: “Effective people management is the key to strong productive workplaces. The new People Matter Charter will give employers confidence, skills, and the reputation to attract and keep the best talent in British construction. The Charter will help organisations in construction to continue to grow and meet ambitions on the world stage.”
The Charter offers the opportunity to enhance businesses, strengthen relationships and benefit the industry as a whole, adds Eibhlin Flynn, Head of Client Relations & Business Development, Danny Sullivan Group Ltd: “Attracting and retaining the most capable people is a key area of focus for us. Creating a diverse and welcoming workplace, with a supportive and fair culture will help encourage innovative and fresh ways of thinking. Achieving this vision will require partnerships and action across the entire sector. The People Matter Charter can help our industry deliver a real-step change and embed better people practices across our organisations.”
To support organisations in implementing the Charter, the School offers a Roadmap, plus a range of dedicated learning resources, all free. Ultimately, people are what matter for the future of the industry, concludes Helen Carter, Lead Consultant at Action Sustainability and Supply Chain Sustainability School Labour Group Lead: “Attracting talent, combatting exploitation, increasing diversity and improving skills are essential for the sustainability of our industry. They are also key building blocks for any business looking to grow and thrive. The People Matter Charter has been brought together by industry partners within the Supply Chain Sustainability School to provide businesses up and down the supply chain with a framework and workforce strategy they can implement regardless of size. People are the industry’s greatest asset and the Charter has been written with them in mind.”