Federation of Master Builders launched the scheme at the House of Lords yesterday

Two construction workers with back to camera

Source: Shutterstock / Mavich Stock Man

A plan to make licensing mandatory across the construction industry has been unveiled by the Federation of Master Builders.

An independent research report carried out by consultant Pye Tait which details the benefits of introducing a licensing scheme for the whole construction industry and puts forward a proposal for how it could work has been published by the FMB.

The report, Licence to build: A pathway to licensing UK construction, was officially launched at the House of Lords yesterday and aims to improve both the quality and reputation of the construction industry.

According to the FMB, almost 80% of builders and home owners are calling on the government to introduce a licensing scheme for the UK construction industry to stamp out rogue traders once and for all. 

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “The vast majority of builders and home owners want to see the construction industry professionalised and it is time for the government to act. It’s unacceptable that more than half of consumers have had a negative experience with their builder.

“However, we shouldn’t be surprised by this given that in the UK, it is perfectly legal for anyone to set up a building firm and start selling their services without any prior experience or qualifications.

“This cannot be right given the nature of the work and the potential health and safety risks when something goes wrong. In countries like Australia and Germany, building firms require a licence and we want to see the UK government regulate our industry in a similar manner.”

The proposed plan would mean the introduction of a sector-wide licensing scheme, apply to all types and sizes of construction work conducted by a contractor. It would also apply to all legal entities of construction firm, incorporated, unincorporated and sole traders rather than individuals.

Berry concluded: “In terms of how the scheme might work, it needn’t be too costly or bureaucratic. Our report draws on the experience of experts from across the construction industry and puts forward a clear proposal.

“We are suggesting that the scheme covers all paid-for construction work by firms of all sizes, not just those working in the domestic sector. Fees should be tiered and could start at as little as £150 every three to five years, with the largest contractors paying around £1,000 over the same period. In terms of how it’s governed, the licence should be administered by a single authority with a broad range of scheme providers sitting underneath.

“We are now keen to reach out to the whole construction sector to get their input on the proposal. If we can demonstrate broad support for this approach, we are optimistic that the Government will take it forward.”

Berry said licensing could go a long way in improving the reputation of the industry and help promote construction as a career to the younger generation.

“For too long, the very worst construction firms, most of which undertake private domestic work, have been giving the whole sector a bad name. So that’s why this scheme should be of interest to the whole sector and not just small local builders,” he said.

Steps to introduce a licensing system

Obtaining Government and industry backing

As a first step, an industry-led Task Force or Working Group should be established to consider the draft proposals and develop a more detailed set of firm proposals for the Government to consider. This should involve working closely with the Each Home Counts team to consider the practicalities of integrating the licensing scheme with the proposed quality mark framework.

Identifying scheme providers and developing standards

The quality mark framework will already involve Scheme Providers operating in the energy efficiency and domestic sectors, but intensive industry engagement will be needed to identify more Scheme Providers to extend the proposed licence to cover all trades, including new build, and create a comprehensive scheme. Work will be needed to define and collate technical standards across all occupational areas.

Assessing likely costs and revenue

A full and detailed assessment will need to be undertaken of the likely capital and running costs of a licensing scheme to cover such things as staff, building and assets, start-up costs for the licensing body, all aspects of operations, as well as advertising and promotion.

Consultation and legislation

With backing from a Government department, Task Force proposals should be turned into a Green Paper and subject to public consultation. Given a satisfactory outcome (including any modifications), a Construction Industry Licence Bill could then be proposed.