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02 Jul 20201 minute read

Survey: Construction workers depressed and suicidal after contractual issues

Survey: Construction workers depressed and suicidal after contractual issues

Half of SME construction businesses (50 per cent) say that their employees have suffered health issues due to late or unfair payment issues, according to a new YouGov survey commissioned by ECA and BESA.

The construction sector fared badly compared to 11 other sectors of the economy surveyed, including manufacturing, real estate, and healthcare. Overall, construction was the second worst for health issues caused by payment and contractual issues, after the legal sector (53 per cent).

Decision-makers at SME construction businesses reported the following mental health issues, due to issues such as late payment and mid-contract changes to terms:

  • Four in 10 (40 per cent) say employees suffered from stress
  • Almost one in five (18 per cent) say employees suffered from depression
  • Around one in six (17 per cent) say employees suffered anxiety and /or panic attacks
  • Three per cent say employees had suicidal thoughts, and;
  • One per cent say employees had attempted suicide

Rob Driscoll, ECA director of legal and business, and a member of the CLC coronavirus contractual taskforce, said:

“These findings are a shocking, if unsurprising, reflection of the widespread mental health issues across the construction industry caused by poor contractual and payment practices.

“The construction sector could well face a spike in further cases of conditions such as depression and anxiety due to the impacts of coronavirus and the lockdown. The Construction Leadership Council has though laid out a blueprint for industry to improve collaboration and mitigate contractual issues and we urge businesses to follow this lead.”

Debbie Petford, BESA Director of Legal & Commercial said:

“These sobering statistics show our industry was already facing a huge mental health crisis before the Covid-19 pandemic placed additional and unforeseen pressures on the payment landscape.

“We know that poor and unfair payment practices only perpetuate the mental health issues facing employers and employees and we echo the calls from all parts of the industry for people to work together in a constructive and collaborative manner to minimise unnecessary conflicts and disputes in these unprecedented times.”

The survey also found that contractual issues in construction caused a variety of other challenges to SME business viability, including inability to grow the firm (21 per cent), lower productivity (12 per cent) and lack of means to repair or replace faulty equipment (12 per cent).

The Construction Leadership Council’s coronavirus contractual taskforce has produced best practice guidance for industry to reduce contractual disputes. The CLC has also advocated fair contractual and payment practices and a focus on mental health in their ‘Roadmap to Recovery’ vision.