The COVID-19 pandemic has put serious strain on some of the most important and hard-working sections of the UK economy. More importantly, it’s putting real financial stress on people’s lives. With a second wave of infections looming, the cracks are starting to show as the wages of a big chunk of the building trade are suddenly frozen.

Who is affected by the announcement?

Half a million workers, mostly in civil engineering, are affected by the announcement from the Construction Industry Joint Council (CIJC). While it’s being called a freeze, in real terms it amounts to a pay cut for many of the lowest paid workers in the industry. Inflation basically drags down the spending power of your money year on year. If your wages freeze, the real-world value of your cash drops.

So what’s actually happened here?

The CIJC sets out the minimum pay rates for around 500,000 UK construction workers. Under the CIJC agreement, a rise in those rates was due back in June. However, after months of delay, a freeze has been announced instead.

Obviously, there’s been a lot of noise kicked up about the move. The CIJC’s being called “out of touch”, with worries about what it all means for lower-paid construction workers. As Unite’s national officer for construction puts it, “Construction workers ranging from the very highly skilled to those on poverty pay, right across the country, will be left shocked and angry today to learn that their employers will be rewarding their hard work and dedication with a real-terms pay cut.”

Construction, of course, is one of the most pivotal industries in the UK. While the pandemic has driven so many employees from other sectors back into their homes, construction has soldiered on. Now, there’s talk of industrial action over the pay freeze – along with the need for “radical reform” on the part of employers. Unite reports that CIJC rates have already fallen behind those of other construction agreements, and that the agreement badly needs to change to become more relevant.

Make sure you're not losing money from your pay packet

Now, perhaps more than ever before, it’s time to make sure you’re not leaving crucial cash in HMRC’s hands. If you aren’t already claiming your yearly tax refund for work travel costs and other expenses, talk to RIFT.

There’s a shocking £300 million in unclaimed construction tax refunds going to waste each year. Given that you can claim what you’re owed for up to 4 previous tax years, that means UK construction workers are owed as much as £1.2 billion at any time. Worse still, most never even realise that they’re missing out.

RIFT has been looking out for building trade workers since 1999. We’re the UK’s leading experts at making sure the taxman always plays fair. It costs nothing to check if you have a claim, so get in touch to set your tax refund rolling.