Two of the country’s largest contractors have a secret understanding not to poach staff from each other

It is understood that Bovis Lend Lease and Sir Robert McAlpine have an arrangement not to target each other when trying to fill certain job vacancies.

It is unclear whether this deal extends across the whole of the UK or whether there are similar arrangements with other contractors.

A source said: “Against the backdrop of skills shortages, understandings like this are not going to come as a surprise to a lot of people, particularly where two companies are operating in the same areas.”

The arrangement came to light after it emerged that firms are offering finder’s fees to staff who recruit senior people for posts where they are in short supply.

Bovis, for example, offers a £5,000 reward. Costain is doubling its fee to £2,000, and it emerged this week that Simons Group offers a £4,500 bounty.

It’s a competitive market at the moment and good people can expect to be approached

Bovis lend lease

HBG and Interserve also offer lucrative bonuses for members of staff who find people for hard-to-fill vacancies.

The rewards are evidence that the poaching of senior staff is becoming more common. The Bovis reward is equal to that of a City law firm, and outstrips those in many other industries.

A Bovis Lend Lease spokesperson said: “Ours is a competitive marketplace at the moment and good people can expect to be approached from time to time. However, we have no formal agreements in place with any of our competitors about approaching people.”

A spokesperson for Sir Robert McAlpine said: “The idea of us and Bovis agreeing not to poach from each other presupposes we did, and I’m not sure that’s true.”