Union wants support for construction’s one million self-employed

23 March 2020 | By Neil Gerrard

The Unite union has called on the government to extend its coronavirus wage support scheme, announced on Friday, to protect self-employed construction workers.

There are thought to be more than a million self-employed workers in the sector, and Unite is urging the government to protect those paid via the Construction Industry Scheme or through umbrella and payroll companies.

A Freedom of Information request made by Unite last year found that 1.03 million construction workers were paid via the CIS scheme in 2018/19, the majority of whom were self-employed but paid on a weekly basis. Another 300,000 people are paid by umbrella companies.

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “The UK’s bricklayers, carpenters, electricians and plumbers will be deeply worried that if they are officially self-employed they will not be protected by the government’s scheme.

“Most construction workers are the primary breadwinners in their family and swift action is needed to ensure that they are protected throughout the coronavirus crisis.

“In the short term the million plus workers paid via the Construction Industry  Scheme (CIS) and the 300,000 plus workers paid through umbrella companies must be brought into the scope of the government’s wage support scheme and Unite will be lobbying government to ensure that occurs.

“In the long term a commission is needed into construction employment to ensure that workers who survive on a feast and famine existence secure proper employment protections.”


Like many in the industry I am also a sole trader providing quantitiy surveying and estimating support to contractors. As soon as the stock market crash occurred enquiries started to dry up. Now with the stay at home advice things can only get worse. Has the government forgotten that self employed people also pay tax and national insurance. What do they expect us to live on

Derek Stothard, 24 March 2020

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