The COVID-19 pandemic had and continues to have a significant impact on UK construction, the sector’s finances, and its productivity but the industry has responded well. Prompt, collaborative, and creative action has shown that both individuals and businesses can restart and reset on a path to recovery. However, as we have seen across the UK, COVID-19 continues to pose risks to construction operations, even where sites are following government guidance. It is essential that firms and employees remain vigilant, continue to follow national and local guidance, and plan for disruption to operations, working collaboratively with clients and firms in the supply chain.
As the risk of disruption due to the weather increases and adds to these risks, it has never been more important for the sector to manage the uncertainties of the second wave of COVID-19 and the end of the transition period after Brexit.
The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) now urges construction businesses of all sizes and types to strengthen not only their own, but whole supply chain winter resilience. Businesses are encouraged to ensure they understand, prepare, manage and adapt for potential challenges ahead.
- Safeguard people and assets whilst maintaining business operations – Implement and keep up to date with evolving COVID-19 Site Operating Procedures including the use of face coverings and local COVID alert levels. Encourage all to download and use the NHS COVID-19 App and ensure QR codes are displayed prominently on sites and in workplaces. (see FIS COVID Hub for more details)
- Recalibration and collaborative administration of contracts – Responsible and fair behaviour in contractual arrangements impacted by COVID-19 will support the performance and viability of contracts and supply chains. Recalibration of productivity under evolving safety systems and accommodating the impact of COVID-19 in existing and future contracts, ensuring cashflow is maintained and collaboratively settling disputes and financial distress will be essential for a sustainable industry recovery. It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure payments flow down the supply chain, and vital that all businesses play their part by maintaining payment and by managing current and future contracts responsibly to preserve industry competence, capability and capacity. Extensive guidance can be found on the CLC website (sign the RICS Conflicts Avoidance Pledge here)
- Protect and retain skills of the sector – Firms should seek to ensure that as many of those in the construction workforce as possible continue to be employed during these difficult times. Subject to eligibility, government support will be available through the Job Support Scheme and Job Retentions Bonus. Support is also available to employers who hire new apprentices until 31 January 2021. Where redundancies are unavoidable, firms should take action to help their employees find new roles, in order to retain their knowledge and skills within the industry. Firms should register to use the Talent Retention Scheme, and use this where possible, as well as encouraging their employees to do so.
- Prepare for the end of the transition period on 31 Dec 2020 and beyond – Businesses should understand and prepare to maintain business continuity as we advance towards transitioning out of the European Union at the end of the year. Significant issues to consider and prepare for include the movement of people, movement of goods and materials, standards and alignment and data adequacy. Use the online GOV.UK checker to get started and keep up to date with CLC specific construction guidance and online seminars including the construction event on 28 October. Companies in the Finishes and Interiors Sector can also access the FIS Brexit Toolkit here.
- Updates on guidance – Construction businesses should register to receive updates from government in relation to COVID-19 and transition business readiness. This can be done by registering on GOV.UK.
FIS continues to support a number of workstreams through the Construction Leadership Council, including work on pipeline (through the Local, Social and Commercial workstream), movement of labour, standards and regulation and fair working practice.
You can find out more about the work of the Construction Leadership Council here.