LOTR follow up: Kane found a job as a steel fixer ⦁ LOTR跟進: Kane 分享喺英國點樣搵扎鐵嘅工作
Kane Chiang has been in the UK for a few months since he arrived on LOTR (leave outside the rules) with his family in August 2020. Since mid October he has been working as a steel fixer. He’s surprised that demand for construction workers in the UK is fairly stable despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
You can read about his arrival here.
How is the steel fixing industry in the UK? ⦁ 英國嘅紮鐵行業係點樣㗎
Back home, I worked in a small company that focuses on steel fixing. I had to do everything, from office tasks to the physical work – so I thought I’d start from the bottom and get a steel fixing job in the UK. I have worked as a steel fixer at 2 construction sites so far. My first job lasted two days, and the current one will last around 1 month.
Steel fixing is not as big an industry in the UK compared with Hong Kong. Many sites here are for building brick houses, so they only need steel fixing at the start of the project, whereas in Hong Kong most projects are for skyscraper construction.
The sites are generally quite muddy in the UK as it rains a lot. I have seen workers showing up in the morning for work, complaining about the mud and leaving the job immediately. I asked one of them who left: Aren’t you worried about not finding another job? He said he can easily get another one.
The mud, by the way, is nothing compared with the mice and cockroaches I see on sites back in Hong Kong.
How do you get qualified and what’s your pay? ⦁ 係英國點考牌，同埋人工有幾多
To work at a site, you need a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card. I applied for the most basic one – the green CSCS card.
To apply for the green CSCS card, I signed up for an online course. The price varies between providers, and I paid less than £100 for mine. After finishing this course, you need to:
- Pass an online Level 1 Qualification exam, then you get a certificate (your course typical includes the exam)
- Book a CITB test at a test centre – this is a face-to-face exam (£21)
Once you passed these 2 exams, you can apply for a CSCS card (£36).
I am happy with a green card so far, because even if I spend more money to qualify for the blue card (the next level) my pay is the same. I am earning £20/hour.
As a steel worker, typically you work 8 hours on a weekday. On Saturdays you work 4 hours only, but get paid twice as much per hour.
Don’t worry about getting qualification in Hong Kong. Do it when you get here.
Was it easy to find work? ⦁ 搵工易唔易
After I applied for my CSCS card, I searched for “steel fixer” jobs online and sent less than 10 applications. A few of them called back within the same day, and I started working a day after.
The companies who wanted me to work for them are recruitment agents. I have gotten work via two recruiters so far. They tell me of where the work is, and if I am interested I show up at the site and do the job.
Is your pay affected by not having a National Insurance number? ⦁ 冇 NI 會唔會扣咗你薪金
I cannot get a national insurance (NI) number because many Jobcentres are closed due to COVID-19.
Because the UK classifies me as self employed, I need to apply for a Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) number. And to get a UTR number, I need an NI number. This is where I get stuck.
With the work I am doing, I am being contracted under the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS). I get taxed at 20% once my UTR number is verified by the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). Now, I am without a UTR number, so the recruitment agencies keep 30% of my pay. Once I get my UTR, I get the 10% back at the end of the financial year, I believe.
I get paid every Friday by the recruiter, rather than by the construction sites.
Are your two boys happy in the UK? ⦁ 你兩個仔喺英國開唔開心
My elder son is struggling with the English but he is still having fun. The teacher from his first school gave him extra lessons and books to teach him English words. He had a good friend in class, and they communicated with body language when he couldn’t express himself.
I said first school, because my elder son just got accepted by the school his younger brother is attending. We are so pleased they are going to the same school and can help each other!