Leading contractors, national house builders and medium-sized subcontracting firms, are to co-operate with Cranfield University in a bid to determine exactly how many freelance builders are currently working in construction.

The new study is part of a follow-up paper being written by Professor Burke, whose study published last November highlighted the economic value of freelance builders to the construction industry, and to the economic health of the nation as a whole.

“I am about to start gathering data from a variety of building sites,” said Professor Burke. “It’s great that some of the leading forces in construction, along with a variety of smaller specialist subcontractors, are so keen to co-operate.

“The plan is to take several representative building projects and quantify the proportion of freelance builders among the total man days on site.”

The need to accurately determine the number of freelance construction workers gained momentum in 2009, when HM Treasury seemed to accept trade union figures that suggested the number of ‘falsely self-employed construction workers’ was somewhere between 200,000 and 400,000 operatives.

“The absence of proven statistics was endorsed by HMRC despite their ability to provide analytical data, and that is why I am undertaking this new research,” said Burke.

The Professor has also been selected to go to Westminster later this year as one of the keynote speakers at a roundtable seminar focused on the beneficial effect of freelance workers.

The event will be attended by selected ministers, MPs, advisers, industry experts and leaders.

He will be joined by a second expert speaker, Professor Patricia Leighton of IPAG Business School, who is an authority on ‘non-standard’ employment law.