Currently, many people are negotiating their benefits and/or salaries in this candidate-short market. So, we recently ran a poll to garner people’s thoughts on how they would feel about less pay for fewer days, and also at what percentage would they deem it fair to reduce salary in exchange for time.
The poll results were interesting in that almost half of the respondents would not consider less pay, and the other half was a mix of people willing to drop their salary by varying percentages in exchange for fewer days worked.
To add some context, the people that showed interest in this poll came from varying roles within the construction industry as follows:
As a point of discussion, the poll results tend to raise the inverse question to what was originally asked in the poll. From our observation, the question became clearer when asked, “are people happy to keep their six days for their current pay?”
Whether it’s due to financial commitments or goals, people may not be able to afford a 5-10% (or more) drop in salary. It’s the adage of time vs money in the overall cycle of one’s work life. At some stages in life, time is more valuable, and at other times money is – it changes as you change.
Work / Life Balance
One comment to our poll posed that other industries have a work/life balance, so why shouldn’t we enjoy the same in construction? This fair comment plays into our opening statement in the poll that it’s been recently widely publicised that thousands of UK workers across 70 companies from various industries (including construction) will begin the world’s largest trial of a shorter working week with no loss of pay. So, percentage-wise, that’s 100% pay for 20% less of your time, but 100% productivity must be maintained.
Concerning these trials (fewer hours/same pay), it’s more a case of ‘watch this space’, as it would just be speculation until such stage there is some concrete evidence to refer to, to create change, particularly regulation, for the construction industry.
Can One Industry be Compared to Another on an Equal Footing?
Another consideration is that with many other industries, the outputs are different to construction, and other industries don’t necessarily engage as many sub-contractors. Let’s face it; making a whole chain of contractors go to 5 days would be difficult. Whereas, when considering the banking sector, for example, they have their business and their clients, and the work is a steady prediction, allowing for more flexibility for the banks to take such initiatives with less disruption to their operations and client outcomes.
The nature of the construction industry is very competitive. If a builder can say they’ll deliver a project a month quicker than the builder’s tendering, then they will award that builder the project as it is financially rewarding to them. So overall, the tendering process and how clients award projects have a substantial impact on how the construction industry operates compared to other industries and that will not be an easy process to change.
There is the possibility that change in the construction industry may come through regulation, though this is unlikely unless more safety concerns were raised. For example, due to fatigue / burnout / mental health concerns etc, where the regulators can deem people are working too long, which is leading to poor safety outcomes (like what occurred in the transport industry).
So, for all the companies that can accommodate it (fewer hours and less pay or the same pay), that’s great, but the reality is that not all companies can due to the way the industry operates. This plays into one of our recent blogs, where if you want to negotiate something different and to see what a company can offer, it’s best to do so early in the piece.
On the Flipside
Regardless, there is a big push at the moment for a 5-day week with projects like Queens Wharf and Dexus Waterfront adopting that programme. However, with 49% saying no, that is a sizeable portion of people either not prepared or aren’t able to earn less for fewer hours. So, in our opinion, if every second person can’t afford to take a pay cut, it is going to be a while before we see any significant changes.
Overall, it’s a very complex issue, and yes, there are some workplaces out there that work less, but there are also those that work more. There have also been a lot of changes to how people work since Covid. So, the takeaway is to investigate all of that during your job search process and look for the businesses that suit the amount of time you want to work while still being financially viable for you.
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