RIBA president Stephen Hodder has blamed the industry’s huge overtime problems on a ‘legacy of fee cutting’ and urged the profession to stop undervaluing itself
The Manchester-based architect was responding to a major AJ survey which uncovered that nearly two-fifths (38.4 per cent) of architects worked at least 10 hours of overtime every week.
The poll uncovered that architects were mostly unrewarded for this additional work, with 81 per cent claiming they never got any money for their extra hours.
An overwhelming two thirds of respondents said the RIBA had to do more to clamp down on the widespread overtime culture within the profession.
In a statement released to the AJ Hodder said: ‘At the heart of this issue is the legacy of fee cutting. Architects need to set realistic fees for clients that fit in with their business planning – if you undervalue your services then you undervalue your staff.
‘It is the profession’s collective responsibility to help challenge and change the culture of unremunerated overtime.’
If you undervalue your services then you undervalue your staff
Hodder added that while ‘modest amounts of voluntary overtime’ may be required ‘to meet specific deadline’, the legal position remained that employers don’t have to pay workers for overtime.
However he insisted that a ‘healthy work-life balance’ was essential to retain the best talent and diversity in the profession and said the institute had brought in a new requirement for all chartered practices to ‘have a written employment policy and for all students undertaking PEDR employment to be paid at least the national minimum wage’.
He said: ‘This requirement also applies to any overtime working.’
According to the AJ poll (see AJ 21.11.14), 36 per cent of architects thought the culture of working long hours was getting worse - a situation the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT) believed was damaging for both staff and their work.
Spokesman Barckley Sumner said: ‘If you look at the indicators for stress, the kind of hours shown by the survey are a recipe for long-term stress problems – really significant issues that affect people’s physical and mental health.
‘The longer hours you put in, the less productive you become, so it can become self-defeating.’
John Assael of Assael Architecture (The Sunday Times British Homes Awards - Architect of the Year)
‘Architects need to address the fundamental issue that they are hopeless in business. According to Colander’s RIBA Business Benchmarking 2013/14, 60 per cent don’t even have a business plan.
‘Fifty four per cent of all practices are micro firms (less than five staff) where the average salary for partners or directors is £26,264 and in a further 23 per cent comprising small firms (five to ten staff) the average is still modest at £42,156. Micro firms should ask themselves why they take the risks of running a business, after at least seven years if training to earn so little – on a par with a junior police constable.
There is only so much that the institute can do
‘Most practices charge fees that are so low it is not a surprise that this is reflected in inadequate salaries and benefits for all: partners and directors, staff and with many students being on unpaid ‘internships’. The situation needs leadership from the RIBA, but there is only so much that the institute can do; it is up to us in practice to address this by valuing what we do and stop undercutting our fellow professionals’.