‘Spotlight on… language’ focuses on inappropriate, offensive and foul language used in the construction industry and how it could cause offence to both those working on site and anyone passing-by.
The Scheme often receives complaints from members of the public who have been unfortunate to have experienced inconsiderate behaviour in some form by those working in construction. However, sometimes those working in construction also witness or are subjected to unacceptable conduct and turn to the Scheme for help. One such recent example was from an operative who heard offensive language on a daily basis but felt that to challenge every instance would lead to confrontation several times in any one day. It is unfortunate that this is not an isolated incident but indicative of a problem that has yet to be fully addressed.
Most organisations will have policies, procedures and company values in place that detail their expectations with regard to employee behaviour and conduct, including the use of inappropriate, offensive and foul language. These will express that all employees are treated fairly and without discrimination, as well as with respect and dignity. However, while these policies and values are firmly embedded in offices, they often do not filter through to site level. The Scheme’s research has identified that many company policies focus on the impact that inappropriate language can have on the public rather than the effect it can also have on the workforce.
It is vitally important that this message is cascaded throughout the company and particularly at site level, where site management staff are responsible for implementing these rules over a large, diverse workforce and often over an extensive site area.
The Government’s Construction 2025 strategy sets out a clear vision of where the industry should be by 2025, stating that people are one of the key factors in ensuring future growth. The vision is for the industry to be known for attracting and retaining a diverse group of multi-talented people, but the report stresses that the workforce needs to be much more diverse if it is to meet the challenges of the future. It is therefore essential that everyone working in the industry understands the effect that using inappropriate, offensive and foul language can have on the image of the industry, and as a consequence, its ability to attract the very best talent.
Facts and figures
A CITB survey, conducted earlier in 2014 and answered by over 500 construction professionals, revealed that sexist, racist, and homophobic language is not simply still a problem on sites and in the construction industry as a whole, but is unfortunately still quite prevalent. The survey discovered that:
- 61% had heard sexist language at work in the past year, and 14% said they heard it once a week or more
- More than half (53%) of respondents had heard racist language at work in the past 12 months and 14% claimed to have heard racist language at least once a week
- Almost half (48%) of workers had heard homophobic language in the past year, while 13% had heard it at least once a week
- 51% reported hearing ageist language in the past 12 months, with 11% claiming to hear it once a week or more