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Blog Post By Genevieve Lewis

The great qualification debate

When I first received an email detailing opinion surrounding the CSCS card and the NVQ qualification, I was naive to think that only a certain amount of people would have thought about the issue. Over the last few months, it has become clear that this is something that many sign-makers have thought about.

Recently, in an exclusive interview with Signlink, Norman Mayhew explained that the reason he believes heavily in the NVQ qualification, is to ensure that his operatives can work safely and have the CSCS card.

However, Paul Fear, a sign industry professional, has responded, arguing: “Firstly, CSCS is a construction workers certification card, not a sign-maker’s card. CSCS is simply a way that building site contractors can limit health and safety liability.

“There is no legal requirement for a construction worker to be qualified (see HSE regulations CDEM 2015). A worker only needs to be competent to carry out their work safely. A worker’s competence can be assessed by the contractor/employer. In the year 2000, Gordon Brown, the then chancellor, introduced IR35 false self-employment regulations. Contractors immediately laid off their trusted self-employed sub-contractors, and started to use employment agency workers to remove IR35 liability. This made it difficult for contractors to assess the competence of their workers.”

There is no legal requirement for a construction worker to be qualified (see HSE regulations CDEM 2015). A worker only needs to be competent to carry out their work safely

Fear continues: “In 2007, the Labour government introduced the corporate manslaughter act. Company directors could now be prosecuted and imprisoned for HSE violations. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 uses reverse burden (section 20). Employers have to prove they did everything they could to prevent an accident. Only by using an industry, ‘good practice’ can employers prove they have done their best to avoid an accident.

“NVQs are now a requirement of CSCS, since most construction workers are self-employed. The cost of NVQ training is passed onto the sub-contract workers. It is a win-win situation for contractors, and these contractors can reduce their HSE liability and the workers pay for it. The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) only give grants to employers, and sub-contractors are classed as employees and no direct access to CITB grants. However, the CITB levy is collected from employers who pay sub-contractors via CIS tax deductions. The CITB gets its funding indirectly from sub-contractors but won’t give sub-contractors direct access to CITB grants.”

Fear explains that the NVQ requirement from CSCS puts a strain on small sign-making businesses. He continues: “The end result is a labour shortage. CSCS has actually removed opportunity for people to join the industry by placing a cost burden on workers and small businesses. Gone are the days of ‘in-house training’. Gone are the days of an older generation passing on skills to the next, and gone are the days that a worker could better his life by gaining experience and skill.

“Now, if you want to be a tradesman, you need a bank loan and an NVQ. CSCS and ever-increasing HSE requirements prevent many small sign-making businesses from tendering for new work. Good news for large corporate companies and their wealthy shareholders, not so good for the rest of us.”

Fear concludes: “If CSCS was really about health, safety, and training, it would a legal requirement—controlled and funded by our democratically-elected government and not a bunch of corporate bosses on the board of the construction leadership council.”

If you have an interesting story or a view on this news, then please e-mail news@signlink.co.uk

Follow Genevieve on:
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