CONCRETE contractors are on the verge of becoming the first main specialist sector to shift all their workers into direct employment.
The move follows the latest meeting of trade body Construct in the wake of a continuing crackdown on bogus selfemployment by the Inland Revenue.
The issue was top of the agenda at a meeting attended by representatives of more than 60 concrete specialists.
And a source revealed how the taxman's get-tough policy is hitting home as two leading concrete contractors are currently being investigated by the Revenue.
The major players are currently drawing up plans to follow the example of Laing O'Rourke and put all their site staff on the books.
The source said: 'Half a dozen of the leading firms like PC Harrington, Byrne Bros and Getjar are now seriously looking at direct employment for all their workers.
'They are a bit cautious about talking about it or discussing timescales because if they go public they are worried that other firms will try and poach their workers by luring them away with the promise of keeping them selfemployed.
'It's all a bit cagey at the moment but it is definitely going to happen. O'Rourke has led the way and, once the rest of the big boys follow suit, everyone in that sector will go on to PAYE.'
The move follows the latest clampdown by the Inland Revenue, which saw £26 million clawed back from contractors who were found to be wrongly classifying their workforce.
The source said: 'The Revenue is definitely getting serious about this and at least two of the firms at the meeting can vouch for that because they are being investigated at the moment.'
Construct secretary Robin Holdsworth said: 'A paper was presented to our members by the people involved with advising O'Rourke on direct employment.
'They highlighted the current requirements and how to switch workers into direct employment and it was quite clear that quite a number of our members are looking to do that.
'Our advice to our firms is clear - they should follow exactly what the law dictates on this.'
The revenue will send out a further 13,000 letters to contractors later this month as part of its crackdown on status cheats.
A revenue source said it was pleased with the results from the first batch of 13,000 letters which recouped £26 million in extra tax.
He said: 'If there's a need we will carry on with the letters but we are hoping this first wave will encourage people to get their status right.'