Lawyers warn building firms to beware of following government advice to favour homegrown talent

Lawyers are warning construction industry employers to be wary of government directives favouring the employment of UK workers, in case they break the law.

Higher education minister David Lammy said last week that the construction industry should try harder to take on UK workers in preference to their foreign counterparts.

David Lammy
Lammy: "Companies should take on our own people"

Speaking at a conference hosted by the Built Environment Skills Alliance, Lammy announced that firms should “not solely rely on skills that come from other places”.

He added: “Companies should take on our own people into this sector.”

But Edward Goodwyn, partner at law firm Pinsent Masons, said that employers who follow this advice could end up in court on race discrimination charges.

“Employers just can't put British workers in front of foreign workers, because this is classed as race discrimination,” he warned.

“Under the European Agreement, Eastern Europeans are free to move across Europe. “You can't block them coming into the country and you can't not employ them because they're not British, because this would breach the Posted Worker's Directive.”

The directive came into force in September 1999 and protects the rights of workers sent abroad to work in another EU country.

“Employers are going to have to be very careful about how they go about following this advice from the government,” Goodwyn added.