Our annual salary guide shows that firms are offering ever more perks to attract and retain staff, says Mark Leftly. To the right are the three most and the three least popular of these … see if you can guess which is which (answers below)

Perhaps the key finding in this year’s Hays Construction & Property/Building salary survey is that the skills shortage is not abating. More than 80% of employers say they have had problems recruiting over the past 12 months, so the natural tendency is to get into a bidding war to win the best of what is available.

One manifestation of this is to offer ever more lavish perks as a way of landing that unusually well-qualified QS or particularly experienced foreman. The catch is that employees find some carrots much more juicy than others, as you will see if you tackle the quiz on this page.

Of course, the skills shortage also means that the traditional way of attracting exceptional staff is still in force: pay ’em more money, and if you turn over you’ll find out what the going rates are.

Here are the main points …

Site agents/foremen

General foremen and sub-agents have experienced inflation-busting 6% salary increases. These are greater than either job has experienced in recent years, and with the Olympics on the horizon, this trend looks set to continue into 2007.

Bill Chitty, manager at Hays Construction & Property, adds that foremen are becoming a particularly scarce commodity, as much of the younger generation take the route of a site engineer.

Quantity surveyors

Salary hikes here have cooled slightly after the big increases of last year. For example, an assistant QS’ salary has grown 2.2% compared with 7% in 2005. Being the trend-spotting bean counters that they are, the QSs have addressed the skills crisis in a timely fashion, and many have started recruitment campaigns overseas.

Robert Smith, managing director of Hays Construction & Property, says: “Overseas recruitment is growing, particularly from countries such as Australia and New Zealand, where there is a similar language, culture and transferable qualifications and skills.”


After a flat 2005, buyers enjoyed a bumper year, with a 5% increase to more than £30,000 nationally. According to Hays’ Chitty, this is because the role has “virtually vanished” from the industry, with few candidates having both materials and subcontracting experience. Salary increases would have been even higher, but many employers have reacted by cutting the number of buying roles and adding their responsibilities to those of the QS.


The worry for employers looking for estimators is finding where the next generation is coming from. There are few trainee estimators, and many firms have found themselves forced to hire people on a temporary basis.

As with several of the job sectors, the central London salary is flat, with increases driven by a lack of qualified personnel in the regions. This could be the start of the London Olympics’ impact, as staff move to the South-east to get working on the Games on their CVs.


As with estimators, there is a lack of young planners coming through, as manifested by the near 5% national salary hike. Hays’ Chitty says that most candidates are looking to site management or commercial jobs. He adds: “Whereas contractors often require employees to be site based and to live away from home, generally in the industry we are finding people not prepared to do this, influenced by a lack of regional salary differences and a desire for a better work–life balance.”

Contracts/project managers

Contracts and projects managers had fairly steady increases of 3.5% and 4.5% respectively, up from 3% and 3.2% last year. Further hikes are expected for project managers with a proven track record in large new-build projects, with the Olympics and major infrastructure projects such as the £10bn-plus Crossrail scheme and proposed expansion of Stansted Airport.


It’s good to be an engineer in the North. There are very few in the region, but massive urban regeneration schemes in the larger cities, particularly Manchester and Liverpool, is piling on even more pressure on employers to offer top dollar. The result is that a North–South salary divide doesn’t really exist among engineers any more, with the highest English regional salary outside of London only £2200 more than the lowest.

Health and safety professionals

New to this year’s table are salaries for health and safety operatives. Immediately noticeable is that salaries tend to be high, with the national average nearing £40,000. As UK health and safety legislation differs markedly to that elsewhere, employers cannot plug the skills gap with a swathe of overseas candidates, although candidates from some countries such as Australia do have transferable qualifications.

And the answers were …

  • 25 days-plus holiday allowance 70%*
  • Car allowance 60%
  • Death-in-service benefit 60%
  • Joining bonus 20%
  • Subsidised crèche 10%
  • Gym membership 5%

*percentage of respondents that view this benefit as either vital or important when deciding whether or not to take a job.