Should There Be a Compulsory Licence to Operate a Plumbing and Heating Business?

John Thompson, CEO at the Association of Plumbing & Heating Contractors (APHC) writes about Quality Plumber Week 2018 and this year’s key debate.

John Thompson, CEO at the Association of Plumbing & Heating Contractors (APHC)

This year Quality Plumber Week (QPW) is running between 1st and 7th October and seeks to debate the introduction of a single mandatory licence to operate a plumbing and heating business.

QPW is about championing the diverse skills of plumbing and heating engineers and celebrating the important role that they play in keeping people healthy and safe. However, anyone can buy a set of tools and set themselves up in business as a ‘plumber’ – a practice which many believe needs to be addressed, as non-compliant – and poorly installed and maintained plumbing and heating systems can be harmful to public health and in extreme cases be fatal.

A licensing scheme could protect and forbid anyone using a term such as ‘Licensed Plumbing Company’, ‘Licensed Heating Company’ or ‘Licensed Plumbing & Heating Company’ unless the company and its installers are accredited and undergo a programme of continuous professional development and scheduled assessment. 

A licensing scheme could hold a register of licensed businesses and installers who have been vetted and deemed to be competent through meeting defined requirements. Ongoing licensing scheme membership could be subject to continual vetting to ensure there is adherence to an agreed industry code of conduct, customer service charter (including a defined complaints handling process) together with proof of continuing professional development and the holding of required insurance policies and defined levels of cover.

This is currently a hot topic, which requires industry consultation, debate and scrutiny, as there are widely differing opinions on the subject. In APHC's key role of supporting businesses and employers across the industry, we want to discuss how a scheme might work:

  • how it could fit within the current framework of legislation and existing competence schemes
  • how it could be enforced, funded and promoted
  • what could the membership criteria look like
  • how would competence be measured
  • how could it work for new entrants, existing installers and those installers with many years’ worth of experience but who don’t hold an official qualification.

APHC are hosting six free half-day regional seminars around England and Wales to debate this concept. Plus there will be open debate on social media during Quality Plumber Week via the hashtag #QPW18 on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Visit www.QualityPlumberWeek.co.uk for more detail. 

*We at WaterSafe are also keen to hear the thoughts of our members on a mandatory licence for plumbers and/or plumbing businesses. Lease your comments below or contact us with your views.


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