Hybrid World: How does the shift towards hybrid working impact the Construction industry

Andrew Halpin
Andrew Halpin

Published: September 30th, 2022

7 min

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has created a significant movement in the shift to hybrid working across many sectors of the economy. After having no option but to adapt to home working in 2020, the concept of physically attending the workplace 5 days a week has become outdated, with many employees preferring the balance between work life and home life that remote working allows.

As we move towards a post-pandemic world, many sectors have adapted a permanent hybrid work model. Flexible working has become somewhat of an expectation for many employees, although for some industries such as construction, where physical presence is a matter of priority, hybrid working comes with its fair share of challenges.

Undeniably the construction industry allows for limited flexibility of work suited to the hybrid model. Without construction workers being present on site, structures would simply not be built. However, despite the on-site demands within the construction industry, many companies within the sector have expressed interest in allowing their employees to work remotely where possible, through fear that should they fail to do so, they may risk losing employees.

Challenges of Hybrid working in the Construction Industry:

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, hybrid working was relatively unheard of within the construction industry. After having no option but to adapt to home working in 2020, employees have become accustomed to home working, with many stating that they would be more willing to quit their jobs than return to the workplace full time. The construction industry has been forced to think how they can incorporate hybrid working models into their company, with the aim that this will aid them in securing and retaining talented staff.

In Covid-19 era, it is easy to think of work as a fluid experience that roams between virtual and physical spaces. But some functionalities are not well suited for a seamless connection between remote and on-site workers.

The first challenge for the construction industry has been to determine which roles or elements of roles can be delivered remotely more permanently. Whilst some aspects of the job may be able to be completed virtually it would be impossible to say that all construction staff can work remotely at one time due to workers physically needing to be present for things such as building, safety checks, and providing adequate supervision.

To adapt a hybrid working model, many companies within the construction industry have had to invest significantly in digital technology to make virtual roles possible in an industry not typically suited to such. With technology suddenly playing a big role in a typical construction workers day-to-day job, many workers lacked the skills and technical knowledge to use these tools. As a result, companies have been forced to not only think about the costs associated with the investment of such technology but also the cost and extra time required to train employees on how to use the equipment to ensure such investment does not go to waste.

However, whilst it has been possible to digitalise many practices within the industry, technology at this point is not versatile enough to build structures via automate construction technology making hybrid working for all less of an option.

As we see a significant increase in hybrid working throughout the sector, it is needless to say that companies that are able to make hybrid working adaptable and sustainable, stand to gain a huge competitive advantage. Industries like construction will undoubtedly feel an increasing pressure to adapt to the model, out of fear of losing workers, and ensuring they are able to attract future talent.

As flexible working becomes increasingly more popular across the sector, companies unable or unwilling to adapt to such model may find themselves in receipt of more flexible working requests from employees seeking more flexibility from their employers.

How to deal with flexible working requests as an employer:

Under the Employment Rights Act 1996, every employee with at least 26 weeks continuous employment has the right to make a flexible working request, for any reason whether this be reduction in hours or changes to working patterns.

An employee will trigger the statutory process by making a written request in which they detail the change to working arrangements they are seeking and when they wish for such changes to come into effect. The employee should also refer to the effect this change may have on the employer and how this can be dealt with.

When an employer receives a statutory flexible working request, they should consider the request within a 3-month period. An employer should make the arrangements to speak with the employee as soon as possible after receiving the request and should inform the employee that they can be accompanied by a fellow work colleague should they wish to do so. If an employer is not able to grant a request, alternative options should be explored.

It is however possible for an employer to reject a flexible working request, so long as the rejection is for one or more of the following grounds:

  • The burden of the additional costs

  • The inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff

  • An inability to recruit additional staff

  • A detrimental impact on quality

  • A detrimental impact on performance

  • A detrimental effect of ability to meet customer demand

  • Insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work

  • A planned structural change to your business

Should an employer have grounds to reject a flexible working request, the employee in question will be unable to submit a further request for the for next 12 months. Employers should however afford their employee the right to appeal the decision foremost.

Hybrid working: Impact on Recruitment and how can we help?

As we move to a post-pandemic world, arguably hybrid working arrangements are central to securing and retaining talented staff. The friction between the needs of employers and employees is prompting some workers to look for alternate work that offers this flexibility. It is more vital than ever that employers do what they can to make their roles attractive to skilled workers.

In an industry in which recruitment has always been challenging and requires thousands more workers to keep up with demand, construction companies may wish to consider looking outside of the UK to fill the roles that require certain skill and knowledge.

To make this possible companies can apply for a sponsor licence so long as they meet the appropriate criteria. A sponsor licence grants permission to an organisation to sponsor workers in the business, enabling them to bring skilled workers in from outside of the UK.

To obtain a sponsor licence a company is required to have no unspent convictions for offences relating to immigration, no history of failing to carry out sponsorship duties and must be offering genuine employment that meets the relevant skill level and rate of pay.

If you are unsure whether you meet the criteria to obtain a Sponsor licence, or wish to explore this option further, the Employment and Business immigration team at Forbes Solicitors will be able to assist and advise you accordingly.

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