The impact of corporate social responsibility on construction workers

Buckley, Andrea Michelle (2022) The impact of corporate social responsibility on construction workers. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


The UK construction industry is one of the largest employers in the UK providing 8% of the national workforce in 2018 (Kotera et al, 2019), although a small number of those workers are employed directly. In the industry it is common for main contractors to be employed by the client, and then to subcontract out the work to a supply chain of subcontractors, who may further outsource the work to subbies and agency workers. This results in a fragmented employment structure with an indirect employment relationship between the contractor and workers on the construction sites.

Employees are considered to be a corporation’s stakeholder and one of the key elements of corporate social responsibility. This study explores the impact of corporate social responsibility on construction workers who may not be considered employees as they are indirectly employed and resourced through the fragmented employment structure. This method of employment is also termed casual labour which for this study includes subcontractors, self-employment and agency workers.

The industry has been considered to be slow in embracing corporate social responsibility despite the industry’s significant impact on society, and where contractors do adopt corporate social responsibility as a policy, they have often used different approaches and different terminology as demonstrated by the five largest contractors (in 2019). This makes it more complex to pass policies and standards down the supply chain who will often move from contractor to contractor for work.

This study is inclusive of primary data in the form of interviews which took place between 2017 and 2020, in addition to the research of secondary data sourced through the review of literature and documentary evidence. Participants for the interviews were identified as workers from each element of the supply chain from the client, client advisors, contractor, subcontractor and subbies to gain a view on the impact of corporate social responsibility on workers to compare and contrast with secondary data.

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