Boom time for blue collar workers

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If you want to be happy and content with your job – be a roofer! A new survey by ECIS, the employee benefits company for the construction industry, has found that 9 out of 10 tradespeople are feeling positive about their business prospects in 2014 (91%) and of these, 30% feel very positive. Roofers and plumbers topped the trades as the most positive of the lot – perhaps buoyed by the work caused by the floods and storms at the start of the year.

Despite the construction industry slowdown over the past few years, 22% of tradespeople managed to earn more in 2013 than 2012 and in a further clear sign of their confidence in the future, 81% would encourage a young person to join their industry, this was most evident in responses from electricians and roofers. But when it came to the health of tradespeople, long hours, business pressures and stress on joints are taking their toll.

ECIS surveyed 200 roofers, electricians, plumbers, heating and ventilation engineers, joiners, plasterers, decorators and general builders in the first quarter of 2014. Overall, the survey revealed a boom in business for the UK’s tradespeople. They have plenty of work and put in plenty of hours to match. While 65% worked the same hours in 2013 as 2012, almost a quarter (24%) clocked up more hours.

39% work the usual 35-40 hour week but over a quarter (26%) of tradespeople put in 46-50 hours of work in a week and 28% regularly work evenings and weekends. However, with long hours and physical work, 31% has suffered fatigue and stress in the past year. Electricians and general builders were most likely to have suffered stress and fatigue. With only 12% of tradespeople surveyed 30 or under, and over a quarter (26%) aged 46-50, the issue of stress and fatigue may also be linked to age. The tradespeople that appear most immune from these issues are roofers and painters and decorators.

In terms of health only 12% had longer than two weeks off work through accident or ill health. However, reflecting the high proportion of self/employed tradespeople, those that were off work felt it in their pockets with 29% saying it impacted their income significantly.

Phil Scarrett, Sales and Marketing Director for ECIS said:  “Things have been tough for those working in the construction sector over the past few years but the levels of optimism are surprisingly good given the long hours, hard graft and pressures these people are under. Roofers in particular seem to be particularly upbeat. However, it is concerning to find that levels of stress and fatigue are so high amongst electricians, general builders and heating and ventilation engineers. This is an issue that can have longer term consequences and should be watched.  Regular healthchecks are advised to ensure any emerging health issues can be tackled at an early stage. It’s also wise to ensure there’s cover in place if accident or ill-health does prevent work.  With business ramping up, now’s a good time to review insurance covers from both a business and personal health perspective.”

THE ECIS SURVEY FINDINGS BY TRADE

General Builders

31% of general builders put in more hours in 2013 vs 2012 – and half of those surveyed said there was more pressure.  Furthermore, 38% had experienced stress or fatigue in the past year. When it came to earnings, 28% earned more but 31% earned less in 2013 vs 2012. Interestingly, 25% of those surveyed were 60 or over.

Electricians

Of the electricians surveyed, 28% earned more in 2013, 61% earned the same only 11% earned less making them one of the top income performers. 44% of electricians work 46-50 hours a week, the longest of all trades. This might be why 39% has suffered fatigue or stress in the past year. They were also the most likely to have suffered accident or ill health and 22% had suffered a neck, arm, shoulder, hip, knee or leg injury.

Roofers

43% of roofers said they were very positive about 2014 – the best response across all the trades. While 39% of roofers saw their hours go up in 2013 compared to 2012, of all the trades, they were the least likely to have seen their income rise in the past year according to the survey – only 11% saw an increase. 46% also saw more pressure in 2013 vs 2012.

Heating and Ventilation Engineers

36% of H&V engineers are likely to have suffered stress or fatigue which ties in with the fact that they all felt the pressure was either the same or worse in 2013 compared to the previous year. 21% earned more in 2013 but 32% earned less. They were also one of the trades more likely to have been off work for more than two weeks due to an accident or ill health.

Joiners

Of all the trades, joiners were the most likely to have earned more in 2013, with 38% saying they had. 19% work 51-55 hours a week and 44% felt more pressure in 2013 while 38% felt less pressure. Like general builders, this trade has a higher age profile – 31% of respondents were 60 or over.

Painters and decorators

None of the painters and decorators surveyed worked less in 2013 vs 2012, but worryingly, 44% took home less income – a clear sign of the competitive conditions they were facing. Despite this, they are the most satisfied of the lot as only 11% said they had considered leaving their profession in the past year.

Plumbers

Plumbers are most likely to make evening and weekend work a regular occurrence with 36% working outside the 9-5 on a consistent basis for work, followed by joiners and roofers. Plumbers are also very positive, coming a close second to roofers with 42% being very positive about the year ahead.

Plasterers

Plasterers stood out as the only trade not overwhelmingly supportive of young people joining their trade with 57% saying they would encourage a person to join their industry and 43% saying they wouldn’t. It was also the trade with the highest proportion of people aged up to 20 working in it –13% (the average for all sectors was just 4%.)

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