Self-employed trades' wages fall below employees

12 November 2010

Wage rates among freelance trades people have dropped to the extent that some are paid less than equivalent company employees, according to new research from freelance contract and payroll provider Hudson Contract, reports Construction News.

The study, which compared the weekly wages of 13,670 subcontractors in October 2010, found that increased competition for work brought on by the recession had forced some self-employed subcontractors to work for up to 50% less than in 2008.

Worst hit were freelance demolition workers in the Midlands, who earned an average of £269.50 a week, while joiners in the South-west earned an average of £359.54 per week.

Both rates are well below the £401.70 minimum weekly rate for skilled employed workers set by the Construction Industry Joint Council Working Rule Agreement, which agrees rates of pay for roughly 600,000 construction workers on major building and infrastructure sites.

Freelance rates are likely to fall further in the wake of forthcoming public spending cuts, said according to David Jackson of Hudson Contract. “Everybody wants more for their buck ...winning work comes at the price of lower tender values. All subcontractor businesses are being squeezed to offer their services at lower rates, and where they have a freelance workforce then that freelance workforce also takes the work at lower rates.”

He added: “In some instances you can see a 20% to 25% drop from two years ago. In some extreme instances that I know of first-hand it is 50%. Freelance operatives’ pay used to outstrip direct wages by as much as 50%, but you won’t find that anywhere these days.”

However, the study found that in several areas of the country self-employed workers earned similar wages to their employed equivalent, but without the associated benefits.

For example, the weekly pay for self-employed bricklayers in the Midlands is now approximately £435.40 per week, roughly equivalent to the £434.40 per week taken home by employed bricklayers in the region, according to figures published in The Office for National Statistics 2009 Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings.


I have heard that Bovis are trying to squeeze another 10 percent off prices on top of the 30 -40 percent they have already knocked us.I am a self employed bricklayer and have got to the point where I would make as much money working as a shelf stacker with the bonus of paid holidays.

Bovis are pushing their building costs down by knocking wages and cutting costs like no longer putting garage doors on FOG Units but they don't appear to be lowering the prices of the houses they are trying to sell.

I could/would not reccomend the construction industry to any school leaver/job seeker.

I am not the only one that thinks this way either.

R.New, 13 January 2011

We are currently working on a project for a well known building contractor in the Northwest, and on the prices they are paying, we are struggling to earn £560.00 per fortnight per man; surely there is a minimum they are allowed to pay even though we are self employed, we are laying between 158 and 230 140mm 20 Newton blocks a day, each, all joined work. They are cutting corners with scaffolding making us bricklayers stretch extra courses to save money. We are working for less than students earn in fast food outlets yet we are not entitled to sick pay, holiday pay or any other benefits. The site managers tell us if we don't like it we can leave, another desperate bricky will take our place and when he leaves for the same reason he will also be replaced until the job is complete. There is little work available and the big contractors know this and so are taking adavtage by paying well below the minimum for skilled workers set by the Joint National Council. Why are they getting away with this? Who is there to help us? What is our government doing about this? Why is the construction industry allowing this to go unnoticed? What is the Joint National Council doing about this? They are quick enough to enforce CSCS on us at our cost, paying to train more individuals to be ripped off by the construction industry in the UK.

mark, 10 October 2011

Can't agree more I'm a self employed bricklayer and I simply can't believe the prices being accepted. We all know the countries finances aren't great but taking a 50% hit in take home pay just wouldnt happen in any other walk of life so why is nothing ever done about it in the construction trade?

Stuart, 4 July 2012

Come to Belfast and work for 3 quid an hour like the Poles with a Polish foreman. Now I'm a time served brickie old school (but i don't speak polish). But for dole job sites, 40/50% require REQUIRE you speak Polish !!

Rodney McConnell, 19 December 2012

Carpenter for 30 years, self employed I got so sick of dropping my rates to the point were it just is not worth the while going. I spent more money on power tools to get the job done quicker and to try and make jobs pay. but now you're expected to have paslodes and chop saws at £3-4-500 a time. Hence now I'm a Class 1 lorry driver and with no tools and no outlay I can earn the same money as I did as a carpenter and no worries. But that is this country all over.

les, 26 September 2013

Les........ I was a carpenter for about 15 years and I totally agree with's not worth doing. £3500 worth of tools to keep buying and maintaining, no holiday or sick pay, maintaining a van or ruining your car, unstable work and wages that have remained the same for ten years whilst everything else has gone up at least 25%. Why would you do it? Wages are going up slowly now (at time of writing 2014) but it's too late .........many people have left the sites and gone for good. I was good at my job and had all round experience but got sick of worrying about having the tools for the job and whether or not I would have any work. The conditions got worse and agencies and management started treating me like rubbish.....expendable, disposable and with general disregard and contempt. Health and safety morons making wear glass and gloves to use a chop saw, yellow card, red card sites, no radios, no shorts, no phones ( and I am self employed and dependant on a phone). No where to park and no provisions made for it mostly, parking fees, parking fines, clamped one time, CSCS cards, umbrella company charges...........
I now work in maintenance doing a job that doesn't even require a tenth of my skill level ( a monkey could do it)! I earn the same money for a basic forty hour week and have holidays paid and only need a cordless and bag of hand tools. I don't even break a sweat!
I miss it though but would 't go back unless the wage was consistently £16 per hour across the board..... Maybe closer to £20 to allow for holidays and times when I couldn't get work. It's just not worth it otherwise. I was fairly well skilled at it and loved the finer work but the next time the wealthy want me to build houses and flats for them...... They had better pay me enough money to buy one, else they can go do one!

Shaun Slade, 16 July 2014

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