Construction industry urged to relax sick pay rules for coronavirus

Sick pay rules should be amended in the construction industry to help tackle the spread of the coronavirus, according to the UK’s second largest union, Unite.

In the construction industry, when a worker is operating under a collective industrial agreement, workers are entitled to industry sick pay of up to £180 a week for 13 weeks, in addition to statutory sick pay (£94.25).

The industry sick pay rules are governed by the Construction Industry Joint Council (CIJC) Working Rule Agreement and are negotiated between employers, Unite and the GMB.

Last week, the government relaxed the rules on statutory sick pay so it is paid immediately if a worker is on sick leave rather than on the fourth day which is currently the case, in order to allow workers to self-isolate if they have symptoms of coronavirus.

However, because of the delay of up to two weeks before the industry sick pay is paid, there are fears that construction workers who may be displaying symptoms of coronavirus and do not want to lose money will not self-isolate.

Unite has written to the employers involved in the various industrial agreements including the Construction Industry Joint Council (for civil engineering), the Joint Industry Board (for electricians) the National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry, the Joint Industry Board: Plumbing and the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning/Building Engineering Services Association agreement, asking that industry sick pay is also paid from day one.

These boards govern pay agreements across the industry.

The union said that changes to industry sick pay would protect several hundred thousand construction workers including those working on major projects such as Crossrail, Hinkley Point and HS2.

Unite national officer for construction (building and civil engineering sector) Jerry Swain said: “The custodians of the construction industry, who talk about the need for social responsibility must demonstrate they will do the right thing.”

He added that it would be “perverse if action was not taken to ensure that construction workers can take the appropriate measures to protect fellow workers and local communities from potentially being infected.”

Construction industry body Build UK has been contacted for a response.

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