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A weekend for every construction worker

Monday 2 May 2022

A two-year research study by the Australian Human Rights Institute at UNSW Sydney has highlighted the success of a Monday-Friday work week at the $341 million Concord Hospital Redevelopment to improve the health and wellbeing of construction workers in the sector.  

Today, Health Infrastructure, in partnership with research experts from UNSW and construction contractor Roberts Co unveiled the results of ‘Project 5: A weekend for every worker’ at an industry event, bringing together 150 representatives from government and industry. 

Chief Executive Rebecca Wark said Health Infrastructure is prioritising safety and wellbeing innovations in tender requests to the market to deliver on the NSW Government’s record $10.8 billion investment in health infrastructure to 2024-25, Australia’s largest portfolio of health capital works.  

“As a leader in the construction industry, we are committed to driving cultural change that can lead to a healthier, safer and more sustainable construction sector as we deliver significant health infrastructure and facilities for NSW communities,” Ms Wark said.  

“For many, Monday to Saturday work, and increasingly Monday to Sunday work has become an entrenched practice in Australia’s construction sector – many assume it’s the only way to finish a project on time and on budget. 

“The findings of this new study highlight the success of providing a weekend for workers in the construction industry and the positive social benefits of innovating as a sector to improve their work/life balance, while ensuring economic viability in delivering our projects.  

“We are working with Government and industry to set the standard. We’ve updated our tender assessment criteria to drive positive wellbeing outcomes across our programs and now we’re asking industry to put forward innovative initiatives in their tender submissions, just as Roberts Co did with Project 5, so we can attract, develop and retain workers in our thriving sector.”  

Project 5 examined the potential impacts and benefits to workers at the Concord Hospital redevelopment, a project which trialled a Monday-Friday work week for construction workers and opened to patients on time and on budget.  

UNSW Research Lead for Project 5 Dr Natalie Galea said the Project 5 study showed the benefits of a five day work week for workers, their families and management.  

“Research tells us that construction work practices contribute to a range of wellbeing issues for workers including heightened stress, burnout, poor mental health, and anxiety. Compared to the general population and other occupations, construction workers have higher rates of physical injury, serious mental health disorders and suicide,” Dr Galea said.  

“Workers examined as part of the Project 5 study reported an increase in job satisfaction including pay, job security, and improved work/life balance. This resulted in improved cohesion and productivity on site between workers and management, and importantly no impact on the cost to deliver projects.” 

Roberts Co CEO Alison Mirams said introducing a five day work week culture would strengthen the long-term sustainability of the sector and support female participation in a male dominated industry.  

“I’d love to see our industry adapt and innovate to this new way of working which will encourage more people to our sector, increase diversity and enhance the health and wellbeing of our workforce,” Ms Mirams said.  

The five-day working week is being rolled out across some of Health Infrastructure’s major projects, including the $619 million Stage 2 redevelopment at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead.  

The ‘Project 5: A weekend for every worker’ research project was commissioned by Roberts Co, and Health Infrastructure.   

Key findings on the five-day work week sites: 

  • Most workers – 75%, preferred a five-day work week over a six or seven-day work week  

  • Most workers – 78%, reported improvement in work-life balance 

  • Workers reported an increase in all areas of job satisfaction including work hours, pay, job security, family and work relationships   

  • A decreasing trend in injury rates  

  • No increase in variable costs to deliver projects with a five-day work week  

View key findings, Executive Summary and full Project 5 Report here.

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