CLF launches National Equity and Inclusion Plan for construction in Scotland

CLF launches National Equity and Inclusion Plan for construction in Scotland

The Construction Leadership Forum (CLF) has launched a National Equity and Inclusion Plan (NEIP) for the construction industry in Scotland to encourage the development of a more diverse and all-encompassing workforce.

Funded by Scottish Government, this latest initiative is part of a wider transformation plan for the industry giving the sector access to a wider talent pool to support growth and help to address labour shortages.

In the construction industry in Scotland 15.4% are women, and there is a gender pay gap of 23%. Some 1.6% of workers in the sector are from a minority ethnic background compared with 4.3% of minority ethnic workers in Scotland as a whole. Figures show 10.5% of the workforce are disabled, 33% of construction workforce are aged 50+ with only 2.7% of starts in Modern Apprentices female. (Figures from Annual Population Survey 2020).

The NEIP seeks to address these imbalances by mainstreaming equity and inclusion.  The Plan sets out “Six by 2026” strategic aims which the CLF commits to work with industry to achieve.  These aims include the sharing of best practices across industry, using data and industry feedback to benchmark progress, signposting to a range of resources for companies to access and development of industry-wide E&I accreditation.

The Plan was developed following an in-depth study by GenAnalytics which looked at the challenges and current state of play and what current best practice there is from inside and outside the sector. It was informed by a wide stakeholder group including E&I experts, industry and government and found that construction falls way short of equity and inclusion standards compared to other sectors and identified a number of sector-specific issues to be addressed by the Plan.

FIS CEO Iain McIlwee said:

With profound shortages in people and cultural challenges that we need to address as a sector, initiatives like this take on new meaning.  A focus on inclusivity isn’t something we should do, it is something we have to.  It starts with individual behaviour, but requires a collective effort to truly deliver change.

Business Minister and Construction Leadership Forum chair Ivan McKee said:

“I recognise that we face new economic and social challenges of an unprecedented scale. This plan aims to support wider efforts to address inequality and promote greater diversity within the Scottish construction sector to encourage inclusive growth and help address labour shortages.

Companies with better records of fair work, equity and inclusion do better, have a healthier and more engaged workforce and demonstrate greater diversity of thought. Fairness and inclusiveness encourages better relations with partners, shareholders, customers and employees.

It will help support the increased resilience of construction and reinforce wider efforts to create a more sustainable economy, in line with the Scottish Government’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation.”

Lesley Quinn, Divisional Director, Corporate Affairs at City Building, City Building, one of the case studies featured in the report and three-time Queen’s Award winner for commitment to E&I, said:

“We have worked hard to develop E&I across our business from our 200 apprentices to our leadership team, and the results have been outstanding. There is a growing depth of best practice in and outside of the sector, so it is encouraging to see that sharing this is part of the NEIP.”

Lynsey Brydson, NEIP project lead at Built Environment – Smarter Transformation (BE-ST) said:

“The NEIP sets out a clear path for the sector to follow and importantly this will be benchmarked to monitor the progress that has to be made. Quick progress can be made through signposting to initiatives like the DIveIN programme run by Built Environment – Smarter Transformation (BE-ST) that gives free E&I training and support to construction companies.”

Emma Dickson, Technical Director at Arcadis and industry co-chair of CLF’s Skills and Workforce subgroup, says:

“It is critical that the industry takes action to be more diverse and inclusive. The plan sets out key areas that we should focus on to make that happen. Larger construction companies are making improvements, but many SMEs need tangible support to make the changes needed. The next steps will be critical to make sure this happens.”

The Fairness, Inclusion and Respect (FIR) programme is an industry-wide initiative that aims to make workplaces better for everyone. This National Inclusion Week, the Supply Chain Sustainability School has highlighted findings from its Annual Culture Report and free training and resources available to support the industry in attracting and retaining people from the full pool of talent.

FIS partners with Women into Construction

FIS partners with Women into Construction

To encourage active collaboration, inclusivity and support the delivery of a more diverse workforce, FIS is delighted to announce its collaboration with Women into Construction (WiC).

With less than 15% of the UK construction workforce represented by women – a figure that reduces to 1% for trade roles – this collaboration seeks to address the industry’s appalling record of attracting and employing women. It will challenge the sector to overcome barriers and improve the experience and strengthen the support network for women joining the finishes and interiors sector workforce.

The partnership will see FIS and WiC work to maintain regular communication on a wide range of industry issues which affect their respective memberships and look for opportunities to work on collaborative activities that complement and support their organisations.

FIS President and Operations Director at Tapper Interiors, Helen Tapper stated:

“It is encouraging to see FIS working more openly on diversity in our workforce. It is critical that we increase our appeal and overcome behaviours that have caused people to look past construction. Beyond the moral imperative, the labour and skills shortage is, without doubt, the most acute we have known. It would be nonsensical not to look at what we do to adapt and improve our recruitment processes and behavours to appeal to the widest possible group of people.”

Kath Moore, MBE – Managing Director Women into Construction says:

“We are delighted to collaborate with FIS to support increased diversity in the finishing and interiors sector.  By raising awareness and opening up opportunities for women to find out about the wide range of roles available, we aim to challenge perceptions and encourage companies to look beyond traditional sources of labour to meet their skills needs.  We look forward to our partnership with FIS to change the face of construction.”

Supporting women wishing to work in the construction industry, Women into Construction works with housebuilders and contractors to recruit highly motivated, trained women, helping to reduce skills gaps and create a more gender-equal workforce.

To find out more about Women into Construction, visit its website

Inspiring Change – A Matter of Respect

Inspiring Change – A Matter of Respect

Last month I signed up to attend the Inspiring Change Event in London – the focus, creating a fair and inclusive environment in construction centred on respect.

It is vital subject on so many levels not least because we have a HUGE skills and labour shortage, but also because it is about creating a better working environment.  Long story short, a phone call about three weeks before the event and I found myself the other side of the microphone giving a keynote talk on why I had completed the training to become a FIR Ambassador!

I often find in construction that there is an abstract concept of the industry, how people think construction should work (or worse think it does work) and then there is the reality, how we get it done despite it all.  These two versions of our industry can seem miles apart.

This is what I chose to talk about at Inspiring Change, not great stuff that is done (others covered positive examples well and I highly recomend checking them out via the event link below), but the gritty reality of when and why we get it wrong, starting firmly with me, myself and I.  I focussed on all the times I have shied away, gotten it wrong and worse, knowingly watched others get it wrong.  The excuses I have used, how I have kidded myself that I was part of the solution rather than the problem.  Both preparing for and listening on the day reminded me again that this agenda is central to who we want to be as a sector.  It isn’t all about all about gender or disability or conscious and unconscious bias, it is simpler.  It is about being better and making sure we take the time to understand, that we help others to understand and that we don’t walk past or look the other way when there is a problem or an opportunity to be better.  This is what we aspire to do on construction sites when it comes to risk management and getting the job right – this is what we need to do in our communities.  This is ultimately how we will make this industry an attractive one that draws the best people in – an industry that demonstratively cares  about our people.

The biggest thing I learned in the FIR Ambassadors course was how ignorant I am in terms of disability and neural diversity.  This was further reinforced at the Inspiring Change event.  I don’t have a disability, I am lucky, but data from Kier suggested 10% of the workforce do (remembering 96% of disabilities are non visible).  A number that really jumped out at me was that the average age someone develops one is 53 – it could still be me.  The stats around diabetes in construction are particularly concerning, but to be honest I had never linked them to the work we do on competence.  If we don’t make the right allowances are people always competent to do the job?  There was some fascinating insights into flexible working on sites and the positive impact this had for Willmott Dixon (see Agile Working Toolkit below), sometimes it is easy to assume there isn’t a better way because we can’t imagine it working.  The early indicators are that at Willmott Dixon there have seen some real benefits, not just linked to happiness, but productivity too.

I always judge a conference by the take away.  It is not a cliché to say I left this one inspired, not just by the people and stories, but the opportunity.

As a sector we talk a lot about modern methods of construction, value led procurement, but they become buzz words, panacea fixes rather than genuine change processes.  At this event we stepped back and thought about the greater good we can do – the social value we can deliver.  It is mind-bogglingly enormous.  If we get it right, we are not just fishing in a wider pool when it comes to shortages of people, but we are rebuilding lives and starting to fish at the top of the pool – because who wouldn’t want to work in a sector that makes this much difference – delivers value with values?  We aren’t perfect, but if we slow down a bit and keep in mind the benefits to diversity in our workforce we can step beyond some of the adversarial behaviours and then we are perfectly poised to be much much better and to do an awful lot of good in the process!

So if you have a Section 106 to fulfil and/or a moral desire to do what you do in a better way, give me a buzz (07792 959 481).  I may not have all of the answers, but I can listen, learn, reflect.  FIS is a platform for action and we are blessed with ever expanding network of people who can help and are committed to making a difference.

You can access the slides from the event and learn more about the Inspiring Change Award winners announced at the event here

Key resources that were highlighted and are definitely worth looking at- Agile Working Toolkit, Supply Chain Sustainability School (Benchmarking Toolkit, Training Resources and more on becoming a FIR Ambassador), find out about becoming a STEM Ambassador, Disability Confident Employers Support, British Association of Supported Employers (promote the principles and delivery of high quality Supported Employment services and work to improve the employment rates of disabled people), Diabetes Safety Advice,,

You can access the full FIS FIR Toolkit here

Written by Iain McIlwee, CEO, Finishes and Interiors Sector
16th December 2021

FIS Introduces New Respect Policy

FIS Introduces New Respect Policy

At the FIS AGM and Awards last week FIS President Helen Tapper emphasised the importance of a redoubling of efforts from the organisation and wider community to ensure that, amidst the worst skills shortage we have known, that we are ensuring that our sector is attractive to all in our society.  To help achieve this aim FIS have launched a new FIS Respect Policy.

As the Trade Body for the £10 billion finishes and interiors sector, FIS is committed to encouraging equality, diversity and inclusion within our workforce and across the wider sector – eliminating unlawful discrimination and ensuring the sector and the businesses therein understand the importance and are equipped to support all individuals within our community.

The aim of this work is to ensure respect is a core value and reflected in all behaviour within our community and to ensure that the sector becomes truly representative of all sections of society.

The policy’s purpose is to:

  • guarantee all those working in the sector are respected and feel safe and are able to be open about who they are and contribute as their best self.
  • provide equality, fairness and respect for all in our employment, whether temporary, part-time or full-time.
  • not unlawfully discriminate because of the Equality Act 2010 protected characteristics of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality, and ethnic or national origin), religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.
  • oppose and avoid all forms of unlawful discrimination. This includes in pay and benefits, terms and conditions of employment, dealing with grievances and discipline, dismissal, redundancy, leave for parents, requests for flexible working, and selection for employment, promotion, training or other developmental opportunities.

In launching the FIS Respect Policy, FIS CEO, Iain McIlwee stated:

“This policy sets out our stall, not just as an organisation, but as a community.  I recently completed the training to become a Fairness, Inclusivity and Respect (FIR) Ambassador and frankly I had a lot to learn – still do.  It isn’t just about what we do as individuals, it is about how we encourage and lead by example and targeted intervention.

The vital take away though was we need to be reflective, seeking to understand not to defend and encourage others in our influence to be better.  We need to be better, not just because it is the right thing to do morally, socially and professionally – the fact is that we are short people, but still behave and communicate in ways that limits our potential to recruit and can turn people away from our sector.  I encourage all members to have a look through this policy and, if they can use to strengthen their own focus, great or if they can see areas we can tighten and improve, feed them in.  The core message of FIS is an inclusive one, together we are stronger.”

FIS members can download the policy via the FIS Fairness, Inclusivity and Respect Toolkit here (including Iain’s blog on becoming a FIR Ambassador).

FIS is supporting the Inspiring Change Conference and Awards a cross-section construction event focussed on improving FIR in our sector and businesses – the event takes place on Tuesday 30th November in London

Are you FIR Real? Why I am not really worthy to be a FIR Ambassador, but will try

Are you FIR Real? Why I am not really worthy to be a FIR Ambassador, but will try

Last month I completed the training to become a Fairness, Inclusivity and Respect (FIR) Ambassador, I don’t feel worthy of the title yet, but I have completed my training and made my commitment.

So why now?

Every now and again something jolts us outside of our comfortable perception of the world and our self.  For some, this week it will be the unacceptable face of racism that reared its ugly head when three young Englishmen, missed a penalty and were abused for the colour of their skin. For me, it was closer to home, tripping over my own naivety and being challenged on a statement I made about being ill-equipped to lead on diversity issues because “I’m a middle aged, white man’.  Even as I type it I cringe at how naïve that statement was – and, whilst it was a horribly uncomfortable moment for me, I realise just how important it was to be called out on it.

Like any moment of intense shame, I immediately set about trying to justify my statement, but the more I dug the more I realised there was no justification – my conscience wasn’t just pricked it was torn apart.  I am not saying I didn’t think the FIR agenda was important, but the sad admission in that statement is that I didn’t fully grasp my responsibility as an individual in trying to lead and support change.  The uncomfortable truths continued to flow in the self-reflection that shame typically drives.  I had always leaned a bit towards the “this is a meritocracy” type thinking.  When you stand back, this is almost as naïve and damaging as a statement that starts with those dreaded words “I’m not being racist but…”.  I decided rather than wallow in the negative, I had to go back to school, in this case the Supply Chain Sustainability School, and address my ignorance with training.

The training has been eye-opening.  There were more uncomfortable truths – I’ve hidden behind the internal monologue that “I have never worried too much about sexuality, gender, disability or race”, that I was pretty “right on” when it came to this “FIR stuff”.  But, over the past couple of months I now understand why this is simply not enough.

The FIR agenda is about so much more than looking past diversity, it is about recognising the value in diversity.  I had, wrongly, positioned FIR to be about sexuality, race and physical disability, I had failed to grasp the wider issues of age related prejudice, failed to recognise and support people with particular personality traits and failed to understand the impact of deeply hidden mental health issues and neural diversity which can leave people feeling isolated.

In the training I learned more about the dangers of conscious and unconscious bias, the importance of empathy, self reflection and awareness and how to regularly challenge myself and my beliefs.  Part of the training was online and part in a workshop format, we looked in the workshops at how to create an environment which goes beyond being intolerant of intolerance, but ensures that nobody can be disadvantaged by anything we say or can control and how we can better work with those around us to ensure that the culture in our organisations and wider sector is equally welcoming and open to change.  How we can create an environment that can and does celebrate diversity.

I can’t change the past, but I have been shamed and inspired over the past couple of months and recognised the need to redouble my efforts to be better today and in the future.  I can draw confidence too from a better understanding of what fairness, inclusivity and respect really mean and my role in identifying and uphold these values.  Vitally too I now have access to a network of other FIR Ambassador’s who have, like me, committed to being better, a network where we can learn from one anothers successes and failures without fear of judgement.

My FIR Ambassador’s commitment is to:

  1. Make a difference by influencing and inspiring others within my organisation
  2. Encourage colleagues at all levels to become engaged with Fairness, Inclusion and Respect issues.
  3. Collaborate with other FIR Ambassadors, particularly those outside my business to help drive cultural change within the construction industry
  4. Share knowledge and resources, both within my organisation and with other FIR Ambassadors
  5. Provide an annual update on my Ambassador progress to the FIR Programme team

And I urge anyone to call me out if I am not living up to this.

We have set up a FIR Toolkit on the FIS website and looking to embed the core principles of Fairness, Inclusivity and Respect in all that we do and help businesses to understand and champion diversity and ensure that the finishes and interiors sector is an environment where people feel welcomed, safe and included.

You can access the FIS Fairness, Inclusivity and Respect Toolkit here.

If anyone wants to talk about the Ambassador’s course, don’t hesitate to get in touch, links are in the above toolkit – I would recommend it to everyone.

Blog by Iain McIlwee, FIS CEO
M: 07792 959 481

Government to protect workers’ rights and clamp down on workplace abuse with powerful new body

Government to protect workers’ rights and clamp down on workplace abuse with powerful new body

A powerful new workers’ watchdog will be created to protect the rights of UK workers, the Government confirmed today.

Responsibility for tackling modern slavery, enforcing the minimum wage and protecting agency workers – currently spread across three different bodies – will be brought under one roof, creating a comprehensive new authority, which will ensure businesses that break the rules have nowhere to hide.

This “one-stop shop” approach will help improve enforcement through better co-ordination and pooling intelligence.

The new watchdog will also enhance workers’ rights by providing a single, recognisable port of call for workers so they know their rights and can blow the whistle on bad behaviour.

The body will support businesses to do the right thing by their employees by providing guidance on their obligations to staff. Meanwhile, increased enforcement will make sure good businesses aren’t undercut by unscrupulous rival employers who aren’t paying or treating their workers correctly.

As well as enforcing all existing powers belonging to the three agencies, the new body will have a new ability to ensure vulnerable workers get the holiday pay and statutory sick pay they are entitled to – without having to go through a lengthy employment tribunal process.

Business Minister Paul Scully said:

“This Government has been absolutely clear that we will do whatever we can to protect and enhance workers’ rights.

“The vast majority of businesses want to do right by their staff, but there are a minority who seem to think the law doesn’t apply to them. Exploitative practices like modern slavery have no place in society.

“This new workers’ watchdog will help us crack down on any abuses of workers’ rights and take action against companies that turn a blind eye to abuses in their supply chains, while providing a one-stop shop for employees and businesses wanting to understand their rights and obligations.”

The plans come as part of the Government’s wider efforts to protect workers’ rights. Since last year alone, the Government has boosted the minimum wage for around two million employees, protected furloughed workers’ parental pay, brought Jack’s Law into force to support bereaved parents, and more.

The Government’s plans will see the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate and HMRC’s National Minimum Wage Enforcement combined to create a single enforcement body.

The new body will continue the successful Naming and Shaming scheme, which calls out companies who fail to pay workers what they are owed and can hit rogue employers with fines of up to £20,000 per worker. This enforcement activity will be extended to cover other regulations protecting the pay of workers employed through agencies or by gangmasters in the agricultural sector.

To help businesses understand the rules, the new body will provide guidance on best practice, complementing the work already carried out by existing authorities such as the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas). It will seek to build strong links with community and worker groups to spread awareness and support engagement with at-risk groups, including the low-paid and those in sectors like construction and agriculture that could be at higher risk of abuse.

The Government will also explore further measures to target abuses in the garment sector specifically, following reports of serious problems in the industry. Options being examined include creating a Garment Trade Adjudicator to investigate companies’ supply chains, or extending the licencing scheme that currently covers employers in the agricultural sector. Under the scheme, businesses who provide workers for agriculture and the fresh produce supply chain must apply for a license to operate in the sectors, and are subject to inspections to ensure they meet employment standards required by law.

If brands’ behaviour doesn’t improve, the Government warned it could introduce harsher measures, including bans on goods made in factories where workers have been underpaid.

FIS Modern Slavery Toolkit

Modern Slavery can take many forms including the trafficking of people, forced labour, servitude and slavery. Construction remains high risk particularly in terms of forced labour. Employers and most notably companies engaging workers through gangs and labour agencies must be vigilant.