COVID-19

FIS is closely monitoring the development of the Coronavirus situation and is receiving regular briefings from the Civil Service and will continue to follow official advice from Government and the Health Authorities.  We are very mindful of the additional pressure this is putting on our membership and the amount of misinformation that is out there, so we are working to keep this area of our website, live uncluttered and targeted on how things will impact our community.

More on how to join the conversation below

Please remember that supporting below we have our legal helplines and feel free to contact iainmcilwee@thefis.org with any specific questions/concerns or requests for information  – we will be dedicating all of the resources available to us to finding the answers and sharing best practice.  Likewise if you have access to information that you feel would benefit sharing with the wider community, please fire it in and we’ll do all we can to collate so it is clear/logical and accessible. 

Listen our COVID-19 Webinars

FIS COVID-19 Risk Management Toolkit

In uncertain times, identifying risk is critical to effective planning.  This tool is being developed real-time by the FIS team ensuring that risks are identified and where we are able, the very best sources to help you to quantify and mitigate are available. The key areas are:

  • Leadership
  • Workforce Welfare
  • Contractual Matters
  • Project Continuity
  • Business Continuity

We are grateful you our members and for sharing information and firing in the questions that is helping to keep this grounded and relevant, to our colleagues in the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) who are keeping us regularly briefed and rapidly feeding back on intelligence we are feeding in and of course our fellow Trade Associations, particularly our BuildUK and the Construction Products Association for the support they are providing in these unprecedented times.

Daily Newsletter & Template Resources
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  • Webinar – COVID-19: cash flow forecasting.  This webinar looked at the fundamentals of cash flow forecasting and what you can do to help your business ride the storm.
  • Guidance to issue to self-employed workers on reporting to work, risk mangement, self-isolation and benefits is available for download here
  • More information that includes standard letters to support lay-off and short-time working here
  • COVID-19 Risk Management Toolkit – COVID-Risk Management Toolkit

See our daily newsletter here

Latest updates
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30.3.20 Latest Statement from Build UK – Over the weekend, Alok Sharma, Secretary of State for Business, was questioned on the issue of individuals going to work and not feeling safe to do so. He was very clear that, where work cannot be undertaken from home, people should go to work and employers must follow Public Health England (PHE) guidance. Build UK on behalf of the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has developed Site Operating Procedures specifically for construction sites to ensure they are compliant. Read the full statement here.

29.3.20 Government amends insolvency law to help companies keep trading while they explore options for rescue – Under the plans, the UK’s Insolvency Framework will add new restructuring tools that mirror the USA’s Chapter 11 procedure, a well-established model adopted by countries around the world.  This includes:

• A moratorium for companies giving them breathing space for from creditors enforcing their debts for a period of time whilst they seek a rescue or restructure;

• Protection of their supplies to enable them to continue trading during the moratorium; and;

• A new restructuring plan, binding creditors to that planThe proposals will also include key safeguards for creditors and suppliers to ensure they are paid, while existing laws against fraudulent trading and the threat of director disqualification will continue to act as an effective deterrent against reckless misuse of these new measures.

The Government will also temporarily suspend the wrongful trading provisions to give company directors greater confidence to use their best endeavours to continue to trade during this pandemic emergency, without the threat of personal liability, should the company ultimately fall into insolvency.

28.3.20 No change for construction – In daily update Business Secretary was questioned on the point on individuals going to work and not feeling safe to do so. He responded that there are workforces where you can’t work from home- in those areas, individuals should go to work but it was incumbent on employers that they follow PHE guidance.  In his speech he identified that companies would have more flexibility on holding these meetings, (e.g. virtually) and that the Business Loan Scheme would be open on Monday.

27.3.20 Good uptake for CITB advance apprenticeship attendance grants for second and third year apprentices in advance (full story here). Already over 600 employers apply for this additional support. We would encourage anyone who is eligible to receive this grant to fill in the form here.

27.3.20 Guidance for employers on the coronavirus (COVID-19) Job Retention Scheme has now been published. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is a temporary scheme open to all UK employers for at least three months starting from 1 March 2020. We expect the scheme to be up and running by the end of April. It is designed to support employers whose operations have been severely affected by coronavirus (COVID-19). (see excellent Q&A resource pulled together by FIS Association Citation that gives more insight.)

26.3.20 CITB Suspends Levy – CITB’s board met yesterday (March 25) and gave final approval to suspend the issue of its levy bills, due for payment in 2020, for an initial period of three months.

26.3.20 CCF have made the decision to only open 13 branches from  Monday 30th March, these branches will remain open on a reduced delivery only service and will be providing products to key essential projects, critical to the increased needs  of the national healthcare efforts.

26.3.20 British Gypsum call a halt on Manufacturingwhilst we continue to support NHS and other essential infrastructure, building and maintenance projects in the UK, in balancing the now reduced needs of our valued customers, with the needs of our suppliers and colleagues, we will temporarily cease production in the majority of our UK based manufacturing facilities from tomorrow, Friday 27th March 2020.

26.3.20 Build UK Clarify Site Operating Procedures – No‐one will be required to travel or work if the social distancing requirements cannot be met and members will be working closely with their supply chains during this time.

26.3.20 New package of support for the self employed announced by the chancellorfurther details available in the relevant section on this page below

26.3.20 Request for Information from FIS – if you are trying to access through your bank a COVID-19 continuity loan, please email janeknight@thefis.org your experience.  Critical information is how accessible, what guarantees are you being asked for, how is it being delivered (as a loan product or overdraft), what are the likely timescales. 

  

26.3.20 New Guidance from BuildUK on Contractual Issues this comprehensive guidance for has been produced for all parties in the supply chain on contractual issues caused by coronavirus. The guidance offers practical advice on what to do in each situation.

 

26.3.20 Ban on evictions for commercial tenants – Commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of coronavirus will be protected from eviction.

 

26.3.20 TfL suspends all road user charging schemes to help critical workers 

 

26.3.20 What to do if you do not feel the conditions you are working in are safe – If any FIS Members are being expected to work in an unsafe way, the HSE operates a whistle blowing service.  Please feed your concerns in to the FIS via

25.3.20 –It was this morning confirmed that yesterday there was a telephone conference of the Build UK Major Contractors who discussed a collective decision for sites to shut. Following that call, a number of members went back to their Boards and have now confirmed that they are closing their sites. Read the full statement from Build UK here

25.3.20 What to do if you do not feel the conditions you are working in are safe – If any FIS Members are being expected to work in an unsafe way, the HSE operates a whistle blowing service

25.3.20 Companies to receive 3-month extension period to file accounts during COVID-19 – From today (25 March 2020), businesses will be able to apply for a 3-month extension for filing their accounts.

25.3.20 Government clarifies rules that confirm work can continue on people’s homes – Work carried out in people’s homes, for example by tradespeople carrying out repairs and maintenance, can continue, provided that the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms. Again, it will be important to ensure that Public Health England guidelines, including maintaining a two metre distance from any household occupants, are followed to ensure everyone’s safety.

No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so. In such cases, Public Health England can provide advice to tradespeople and households.

No work should be carried out by a tradesperson who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild.

24.3.20 BMF clarifies Builders’ Merchants’ role during COVID-19 Restrictions

24.3.20 The Chancellor says help is coming for the self employed – You can read the House of Commons Public Committee Amendments: Coronavirus Bill pages 14-18 here.  Alternatively download the amendments PDF here.

24.3. 20 Support for Apprentices – CITB is paying, in advance, apprenticeship attendance grants for second and third year apprentices to help keep skills in the construction industry amid the Coronavirus outbreak.

The payments will be made from 6 April for apprentices already subject to CITB grant support and who are currently in the second or third year of their apprenticeship for the remainder of the year. The payments are expected to be able to support 7,500 apprentices, and will advance up to £2,500 in attendance grant at a time when retaining apprentices is critical. To read the press release on this please click here.

CITB has worked with the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) to discuss funding rules on breaks in learning for apprentices. ESFA have issued guidance for apprentices, employers and training providers, you can read the guidance here.

CITB has helped apprentices return home from National Construction Colleges in Bircham Newton, Erith, Kings Norton and Inchinnan; every CITB apprentice is being contacted by their Apprenticeships Officer this week. Online learning tools (functional skills videos) have also been made available to help apprentices continue their studies from home. These videos are available to all apprentices, not just CITB’s. Information on how to register and access the videos can be found here.

A dedicated email helpline for all apprentices and their employers providing advice and signposting during COVID-19 has been set-up by CITB. Please e-mail CITB at Apprenticeships.COVID19@citb.co.uk for assistance.

24.3.20 New guidance for employees, employers and businesses about protection from eviction for commercial tenants and extension of BID arrangements.

24.3.20 Reports that  there have been several instances today of police officers visiting construction sites and requesting the closure of these.  BEIS have emphasised that this action is “not consistent with the Government guidance, which is clear that construction sites should continue to operate if they can do so in a manner consistent with PHE guidance, recognising that the vast majority of construction work cannot be undertaken from home.

We are working with the IPA and the Home Office to ensure that accurate information is provided to the police, to prevent this from happening in future. If you receive questions from your members, please do explain the position as set out above.”

24.3.20 The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), specifically for SMEs and provided by the British Business Bank via your usual bank or lender, is now available. There is no maximum cap set for lending supported through the scheme, so there is no immediate need to approach your lender if your business does not need finance at the moment

24.3.20 Through BuildUK, as part of their response to the Covid-19 pandemic, FIS is asking members to complete this survey on the support that The UK Government has put in place a number of actions to support UK businesses through the Covid-19 pandemic. All individual responses will remain confidential.

24.3.20 FIS has written to the Construction Minister, BEIS and thc CLC for urgent clarification to be issued.  Current position from COBR, sites should continue to operate if they can do so in a manner consistent with PHE guidance (see CLC Operating Procedures), recognising that the vast majority of construction work cannot be undertaken from home.

24.3.20 Major merchant groups announce they will pause distrubution whilst they await clarity from the Government, CCF and Minster have both put out statements on social media to advise the sector.  All Saint Gobain businesses, manufacturing and distribution are closing for 24 hours from this morning whilst they seek clarification from government on how they can operate within the new government guidelines.

23-3-20 Prime Minister’s speech further tightens guidance – The speech included new guidance on staying at home and away from others.  Advice states you should only leave the house for one of four reasons:

● Shopping for basic necessities​, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible.
● One form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household.
● Any medical need​, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.
● Travelling to and from work​, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.

You can read the full advice here.

23-3-20 Update Guidance from the Construction Leadership Council Issued:

We are in exceptional circumstances, and are doing our utmost to keep construction sites operational wherever it is practical and safe to do so. Whilst the guidance from Public Health England may change in future, for the time being construction sites of any size that are operating during the Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic need to ensure they are protecting their workforce and minimising the risk of spread of infection.

To implement the Government’s social distancing recommendation the Construction Leadership Council has now published Site Operating Procedures. I would strongly recommend that these procedures are implemented by every operational construction site, with the aim of us having a standard approach across the industry that all firms and workers can adopt.

It is also vital that the health and safety requirements of any construction activity must not be compromised at this time. If an activity cannot be undertaken safely due to a lack of suitably qualified personnel being available, or social distancing being implemented, it should not take place. We are aware that emergency services are also under great pressure and may not be in a position to respond as quickly as usual.

Andy Mitchell

CLC COVID-19_Site Operating Procedures – 23 March 2020

23.3.20 – Updated eligibility criteria for COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility to include the Bank of England’s eligibility criteria  here – it has been confirmed that this will be available to all.  Full details still to be announced through the Bank of England, but outline details now available. 

23.3.20  Support for businesses through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme – The scheme is now open for applications. To apply, you should talk to your bank or one of the 40 accredited finance providers (not the British Business Bank) as soon as possible, to discuss your business plan. You can find out the latest on the best ways to contact them via their websites.

All major banks are offering this scheme. If you have an existing loan with monthly repayments you may want to ask for a repayment holiday to help with cash flow.

The full rules of the scheme and the list of accredited lenders are available on the British Business Bank website.

21.3.20 – Guidance on critical workers has now been published – Construction workers are not explicitly referenced in the definition, however the document refers to flexibility and FIS has confirmed with BEIS that this will cover construction workers who are doing jobs that are essential to support public services and consequently workers falling in this category will be able to access school places should they not be able to make alternative provision.

It is important to note that the definition of critical workers is solely for the purposes of allocating places in schools. Everyone else in the industry can continue to work as normal, subject to following advice re: their health and risks of infection.

21.3.20 – Temporary relaxation of the enforcement of the EU and GB drivers’ hours rules: all sectors carriage of goods by road

20.3.20 – Chancellor announces new package of support including VAT holiday, extensions of the interest free period for Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and more support for the self employed.

20.3.20 – CITB announces apprenticeship support package the message is please please hold onto your apprentices for the moment help is coming

20.3.20 – New Public Procurement Notice advises public sector to look at how supply chain can be supported includes Government Procurers encouraged to pay suppliers even if work is suspended.

  1. Urgently review their contract portfolio and inform suppliers who they believe are at  risk that they will continue to be paid as normal (even if service delivery is disrupted or temporarily suspended) until at least the end of June.
  2. Put in place the most appropriate payment measures to support supplier cash flow; this might include a range of approaches such as forward ordering, payment in advance/prepayment, interim payments and payment on order (not receipt).
  3. If the contract involves payment by results then payment should be on the basis of previous invoices, for example the average monthly payment over the previous three months.
  4. To qualify, suppliers should agree to act on an open book basis and make cost data available to the contracting authority during this period. They should continue to pay employees and flow down funding to their subcontractors.
  5. Ensure invoices submitted by suppliers are paid immediately on receipt (reconciliation can take place in slower time) in order to maintain cash flow in the supply chain and protect jobs.

We have asked the question as to whether paying any withheld retentions would be possible too.

New guidance for UK businesses trading internationally – including how the DIT is looking to help businesses whose supply chain has been affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) find alternative suppliers.

20.3.20 – Advice on how to access evidence for work absence has now been included in guidance for employees, employers and businesses details here and on online isolation note on providing proof of coronavirus absence from work that can be accessed here.

20.3.20 – New advice from HM Treasury on to access financial support from the Government if you or your business has been affected by COVID-19, this covers SSP (including self-isolation), Universal Credit, mortgage repayment, loans and the new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, more details here

20.3.20  Potential COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Economic and Construction Impacts report has been pulled together by the Construction Products Association, available to download here

19.3.20  Fresh concerns over the return of plasterboard allocation following announcement from BG – more information here

19.3.20  New advice from HM Treasury How to access government financial support if you or your business has been affected by COVID-19, this covers SSP (including self-isolation), Universal Credit, mortgage repayment, loans and the new new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme  – download the factsheet here

19.3.20 – CITB Revise Support to Employers to ease cash flow: the 20 week grant claim processing rule is frozen, CITB are urging employers to check their Grant Online accounts for claims which need authorising, and to sign and return any paper Grant Claim forms we have issued as quickly as possible.  FIS can offer free virtual skills clinics to help you to optimise your returns. To book your slot, email: amandascott@thefis.org

19.3.20 – Heath and Safety test centre from Friday 20 March 2020 are temporarily closed they are working on alternative ways to test.  CITB have asked all all Site Safety Plus centres to relax cancellation and refund policies, additionally, any delegate whose SMSTS/SSSTS achievement has expired since 15 March 2020 and who hasn’t been able to renew in time due to COVID-19, will be allowed to take the refresher rather than the full course.  Quality Assurance activities are reduced to electronic responses.  Investigations will be risk assessed case by case as CITB’s compliance teams are committed to continuing their important work of identifying and protecting the construction industry from fraud risks relating to training delivery.

19.3.20 – Guidance from Midas sets the right tone and underpins the position of the Construction Leadership Council, the construction industry is resilient and do all we can to keep sites open.  Read the statement here

19.3.20 – New Public Health Poster – developed to support employers in sharing best practice click here to access the poster

19.3.20 CSCS latest:  CSCS are asking the industry to support the following temporary measures:

  • Requesting employers and those responsible for site access and card checking procedures to use their discretion towards workers whose cards have expired since mid-March onward and who can provide evidence that they have been unable to sit their test or undertake the required training as a result of the closure of Test and Training centres.  This is at the employer’s discretion until the situation has stabilised.
  • CSCS has extended the grace period for card renewals from six months after the card expires to 12 months.  This means that the card can be renewed, once the CITB Health, Safety and Environmental test has been passed, up to one year from the card’s expiry date.

For more details please click here

18.3.20 – Business rates: expanded retail discount – guidance.  Members with “showrooms may be able to benefit” – more advice here

18.3.20 – BLOG: COVID-19: The vaccine that is needed to save construction firms, FIS CEO Iain McIlwee looks at planning for worst case scenario and what measures would be needed to save construction companies should sites close

18.3.20 – FIS updates guidance and provides template resources on home working (thanks to Mansell Finishes for sharing) and on Lay-off procedures, Short-time working and Redundancy (courtesy of Citation) – more here

18.3.20 – Schools in England, Wales and Scotland to close from Friday, Northern Ireland from Monday (for all but vulnerable and children of essential workers).

18.3.20 – CITB taking action, developing training materials to keep sites working, time bound qualifications and cards, closure of National Construction Colleges, all spring Roadshows cancelled to be moved on-line, electronic apprentice reviews, support for CITB Approved training providers, extensions on renewal periods for Site Managers (SMSTS) and Site Supervisors Safety Training Schemes (SSSTS) and postponement of Construction Ambassador events.  For more information click here

18.3.20 – CSCS Ask Industry to Support temporary Measures, Pearson’s Health and Safety test Centres capacity reduced by 50% to allow for additional spacing between candidates.  Card renewal grace period extended from six months to 12 months.  For more information click here.

18.3.20 – Statement from Courts during coronavirus pandemic: Robert Buckland statement.  “Our Crown and Magistrates courts provide a vital public service and until instructed otherwise, we expect all lawyers, magistrates, jurors, witnesses, defendants and court staff to continue to attend court as required, so the interests of justice can be served” More here.

17.3.20 – Extending announcements in last week’s Budget (see below), the Chancellor today announced he would take further action including:

  • support for liquidity amongst large firms, with a major new scheme being launched by the Bank of England to help them bridge Coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loans
  • increasing the amount businesses can borrow through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme from £1.2 million to £5 million, and ensuring businesses can access the first 6 months of that finance interest free, as Government will cover the first 6 months of interest payments
  • including new legal powers in the Covid Bill enabling us to offer whatever further financial support we think necessary to businesses
  • He also confirmed Mortgage lenders have agreed they will support customers that are experiencing issues with their finances as a result of Covid-19, including through payment holidays of up to 3 months. This will give people the necessary time to recover and ensure they do not have to pay a penny towards their mortgage in the interim.
  • Finally he confirmed that implementation of ir35 reforms would be delayed for 12 months.

Full details are available here

17.3.20 – The Construction Leadership Council with the support of the Construction Products Association and Build UK have written to the Prime Minister to affirm that it is vital that our construction sites are able to remain open. Read the full letter here.

17.3.20 – FIS COVID-19 Risk Management Toolkit updated to include latest advice on what to do if there is a suspected case on site and communicating with your team it has also been simplified Click here to access the Toolkit

17.3.20 – FIS develops new template corresponence to support communicatino with LOSCs covering welfare and hygiene advice, reaction to symptoms and information on how to claim Universal Credit if they are not able to report to site.  This resource can be downloaded here.

17.3.20 – Foreign Secretary advises against all non essential overseas travel. British people who decide that they still need to travel abroad should be fully aware of the increased risks of doing so. That includes the risk that they may not be able to get home, if travel restrictions are put in place. Anyone still considering travel to be realistic about the level of disruption they are willing and able to endure, and to make decisions in light of the unprecedented conditions we face. More here.

16.3.20 – PM announces that now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel.  People are advised to start working from home where they possibly can.  If you live alone and you have symptoms of coronavirus illness (COVID-19), however mild, stay at home for 7 days from when your symptoms started. if you live with others and you or one of them have symptoms of coronavirus, then all household members must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill.

  • For advice for individuals in terms of recognising symptoms and taking action – click here
  • For advice related to travel internationally – click here
  • For advice for employers and businesses – click here
  • Many businesses will be impacted by childcare issues, the latest advice for educational establishments is available here
Contractual Advice – Implications of delays and closures
Click here

The COVID-19 has created a number of challenges for FIS Members balancing social, health and welfare concerns.  The reources below are supported by our legal helpline, which can be accessed via 0121 707 0077

FIS Webinar – COVID-19 and Employment Matters (24 March 2020)
Listen to experts from ClarksLegal discuss employment and contractual matters here

Insight into the impact of COVID-19 on construction contracts (19 March 2020)

In an online meeting this week, John Bradley gave his views on the contractual implications of potential delays and site closures (20 March).

Guidance on Contractual Issues Caused by Coronavirus published on behalf of FIS Members via BuildUK

For the full presentation on JCT contracts, variations and amendments including template letters, visit the FIS Legal and Contractual Toolkit here

Members are advised to review all contracts for provisions around delays to ensure that they are aware of any risks and obligations and reminded of the importance of record keeping and maintaing close management of notification requirements.

Members can call the FIS with specific questions on 0121 707 0077 and we will direct you to the legal helpline where necessary.

Support for Employers from Government
Click here

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – all UK employers will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those employees that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis.

Deferring VAT and Income Tax payments – support for businesses by deferring Valued Added Tax (VAT) payments for 3 months. Self-employed, Income Tax payments due in July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system will be deferred to January 2021.

Statutory Sick Pay relief package for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) – Govt is bringing forward legislation to allow small-and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19.

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offering loans of up to £5 million for SMEs through the British Business Bank – this is a loan Scheme which will support SMEs with access to loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million and for up to 6 years.

The government will also make a Business Interruption Payment to cover the first 12 months of interest payments and any lender-levied fees, so smaller businesses will benefit from no upfront costs and lower initial repayments.

The scheme will be delivered through commercial lenders, backed by the government-owned British Business Bank.

There are 40 accredited lenders able to offer the scheme, including all the major banks. Click here for accredited lender info

Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility – A new lending facility from the Bank of England to help support liquidity among larger firms, helping them bridge coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loans – under the new , the Bank of England will buy short term debt from larger companies.

This will support companies that have been affected by a short-term funding squeeze, and allow them to finance their short-term liabilities.  It will also support corporate finance markets overall and ease the supply of credit to all firms.

The HMRC Time To Pay Scheme – All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service.  These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities.

If you have missed a tax payment or you might miss your next payment due to COVID-19, please call HMRC’s dedicated helpline: 0800 0159 559

Commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of COVID-19 will be protected from eviction.

It is also worth contacting your local enterprise partnership or equivalent to see what support is available.

Support for the Self-Employed
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The Government have unveiled a package of support for the self-employed.

New self employed income scheme

The Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will support self-employed individuals (including members of partnerships) whose income has been negatively impacted by COVID-19. The scheme will provide a grant to self-employed individuals or partnerships, worth 80% of their profits up to a cap of £2,500 per month.

HMRC will use the average profits from tax returns in 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 to calculate the size of the grant. The scheme will be open to those where the majority of their income comes from self-employment and who have profits of less than £50,000. The scheme will be open for an initial three months with people able to make their first claim by the beginning of June.

Key points:

HMG will pay the self-employed a taxable grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits over the last three years up to £2500 per month
Available for three months. Will be extended if necessary
People can claim these grants and continue to do business
Open to anyone of trading profits of up to £50k
Available to people who i) make the majority of their income being self-employed, ii) Have a self employed tax return for 2019- aimed to stop fraud

How to access

  • HMRC to contact you directly and you’ll have to fill out a form
  • HMRC will pay the grant directly to bank accounts.
    Aim is to pay at the beginning of June (3 months backdated).  Hoping to be quicker than that but recognition HMRC are now having to design two new systems
  • Anyone who missed the Jan filing deadline has an extra 4 weeks from today to submit their tax return.

Additional support that you can access if self-employed

Universal credit –  To support you with the economic impact of the outbreak, and allow you to follow government guidance on self-isolation and social distancing, from 6 April the requirements of the Minimum Income Floor will be temporarily relaxed. This change will apply to all Universal Credit claimants and will last for the duration of the outbreak.  New claimants will not need to attend the jobcentre to demonstrate gainful self-employment.  Normally  this takes 5 weeks to kick in, but there are provisions for emergency payments.  Find out if you’re eligible for Universal Credit.  You can find out more about how to claim here.

Mortgage holidays – Rishi Sunak announced earlier this week that people struggling with their finances would be able to take a break of up to three months from paying their mortgage.  Details do differ between mortage lenders and you are advised to speak to your mortgage lender to understand how this can be implemented and whether it is available to you.

Rental Payments –  The government has announced a package of measures to protect renters affected by coronavirus.  You can find out more here 

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), specifically for SMEs and provided by the British Business Bank via your usual bank or lender, is now available.  The Chancellor has confimed that this will be available to sole traders. Again speak to your bank about terms.

Deferring VAT and Income Tax payments support for businesses by deferring Valued Added Tax (VAT) payments for 3 months. Self-employed, Income Tax payments due in July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system will be deferred to January 2021.

Job Retention and Furlough
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The Government has announce the COVID-19 Job Retention Scheme, it is based around what is it and what is Furloughing, what is this and what does it mean?

In UK employment law, the term ‘furloughed’ has no legal significance and therefore the government will need to give specific guidance on this when further details are released. The strict meaning of the word is a temporary leave of absence from work. Unless the government confirms to the contrary, we should assume that all contractual benefits (e.g. holidays) continue to accrue.

In this instance it refers to an employment support package that will see HMRC reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month via a grant to business. HMRC are working urgently to set up a system for reimbursement. Existing systems are not set up to facilitate payments to employers. Our understanding at this stage is that the employer can choose to top up, but is not obliged.

More information from Citation is available here (whilst we await formal clarification).  This resource on the CBI website is also useful.

COVID -19 Letter putting employee onto furloughed scheme

Skills, Training & Apprenticeships Updates
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27.03.20 – CSCS Due to the growing concerns surrounding the Coronavirus CSCS are experiencing reduced staffing levels at the contact centre, the telephone service is therefore suspended until further notice.  Until the service re-opens CSCS are only able to accept applications via the online service.  CSCS are asking the industry to support the following temporary measures:

  1. Requesting employers and those responsible for site access and card checking procedures to use their discretion towards workers whose cards have expired since mid-March onward and who can provide evidence that they have been unable to sit their test or undertake the required training as a result of the closure of Test and

This is at the employer’s discretion until the situation has stabilised.

  1. CSCS has extended the grace period for card renewals from 6 months after the card expires to 12 months. This means that the card can be renewed, once the CITB HS&E test has been passed, up to one year from the card’s expiry date.

This will assist those applicants struggling to find availability to sit the test and renew their card.

  1. In response to Covid-19 CITB have developed some free of charge products to help employers determine if an employee is safe to work on their site.

For details of the CITB Health and Safety and Environment Tests please see: https://www.citb.co.uk/urgent-messages/

27.03.20 – FE WEEK English Skills Funding Agency’s supposed solution to NHS business admin conundrum, A successful alternative to the business admin level 2 apprenticeship, for NHS Trusts at least, has been found, according to the government.  A blog post published by the Education & Skills Funding Agency last week lauded the level 2 customer service programme as a viable replacement.  For the full story please see: https://feweek.co.uk/2020/03/27/esfa-claims-for-level-2-business-admin-alternative-disputed/

26.03.20 – CITB suspends Levy for 3 months, the bills will subsequently be issued for the full year. The delay will provide immediate financial relief to construction employers during the coronavirus crisis.  All levy bills, raised before 2020, should have been paid by this point. Employers in arears should contact CITB to discuss payment options.  Message from CITB’s CEO Sarah Beale https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfgLoOWahVE&feature=youtu.be

More information at: https://www.citb.co.uk/urgent-messages/

25.03.20 – The FIS are contacting the FIS Approved Training Provider network to discuss current activities, concerns regarding the current situation and attempt to identify how FIS may be able to assist.  FIS continue to investigate methods of electronic training provision.  Our existing E Learning facilities are always available to members pages.

25.03.20 – FEWEEK: Coronavirus, ‘Furious’ Association of Education and Learning Providers boss says government wants skills sector to collapse, Mark Dawe has told FE WEEK the government’s goal seems to be for the collapse of the skills sector, many independent training providers may go out of business: https://feweek.co.uk/2020/03/23/coronavirus-furious-aelp-boss-says-government-wants-skills-sector-to-collapse/

25.03.20 – CITB as announced, CITB is making available advanced payment of apprenticeship attendance grants for apprentices in their second and third year of apprenticeship programmes.  To request the advance grant payment please register your details on the form https://www.citb.co.uk/levy-grants-and-funding/grants-funding/apprenticeship-grants/apprenticeship-grant-advance/.

25.03.20 – CITB Grants: CITB are unable to support Levy and Grant telephone lines, urgent enquiries should be sent by email levy.grant@citb.co.uk.  They are processing grant claims as quickly as possible and urge employers to check their Grant Online accounts for claims which need authorising.  Advanced payment of apprenticeship attendance grants for 2nd and 3rd year apprentices to help ensure future skills are retained in the construction industry.  To claim see the link above. For the press release go to: https://www.citb.co.uk/about-citb/news-events-and-blogs/uk/2020/03/citb-paying-apprenticeship-grants-in-advance-/

25.03.20 CITB Health and Safety Testing: Health and Safety test centres are temporarily closed.  New products have developed some free of charge.  CITB hope is these will help employers run their own in-house interim testing to give a level of local assurance to help the employer to determine if an employee is safe to work on their site.  For operatives and specialist go to:

https://www.imagitechmedia1.co.uk/CITB/Downloads/GT100_LITE_19_DL.html.

For Managers and Professionals go to  https://www.imagitechmedia1.co.uk/CITB/Downloads/GT200_LITE_19_DL.html

For test guidelines please see: https://www.citb.co.uk/global/courses-quals/hse-test/hse_test_delivery_guidelines.pdf

25.03.20 – The National Construction College: CITB would like to re-assure our learners working towards their S/NVQ that we are here to support you with your qualification through these challenging times.  Please continue to complete and send in your work-based evidence in the normal way (recorded delivery, if by post) as instructed by your training college instructor or on-site assessor.

24.03.20 – Government Guidance: Coronavirus (COVID-19): apprenticeship programme response.  This document sets out guidance for apprentices, employers, training providers and assessment organisations in response to the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19).  It includes applying the policy on breaks in learning:https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-apprenticeship-programme-response

24.3. 20 Support for Apprentices – CITB is paying, in advance, apprenticeship attendance grants for second and third year apprentices to help keep skills in the construction industry amid the Coronavirus outbreak.

The payments will be made from 6 April for apprentices already subject to CITB grant support and who are currently in the second or third year of their apprenticeship for the remainder of the year. The payments are expected to be able to support 7,500 apprentices, and will advance up to £2,500 in attendance grant at a time when retaining apprentices is critical. To read the press release on this please click here.

CITB has worked with the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) to discuss funding rules on breaks in learning for apprentices. ESFA have issued guidance for apprentices, employers and training providers, you can read the guidance here.

CITB has helped apprentices return home from National Construction Colleges in Bircham Newton, Erith, Kings Norton and Inchinnan; every CITB apprentice is being contacted by their Apprenticeships Officer this week.

Online learning tools (functional skills videos) have also been made available to help apprentices continue their studies from home. These videos are available to all apprentices, not just CITB’s. Information on how to register and access the videos can be found here.

A dedicated email helpline for all apprentices and their employers providing advice and signposting during COVID-19 has been set-up by CITB. Please e-mail CITB at Apprenticeships.COVID19@citb.co.uk for assistance.

The FIS are investigating methods of electronic training provision.  Our E Learning facilities are always available to members pages.

Government Guidance: Coronavirus (COVID-19): apprenticeship programme response.  This document sets out guidance for apprentices, employers, training providers and assessment organisations in response to the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19).  It includes applying the policy on breaks in learning:https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-apprenticeship-programme-response

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education England:  IfATE has published new guidance on the delivery of assessment at https://www.instituteforapprenticeships.org/response-to-covid-19/

FEWEEK: Coronavirus, 9 key points from the government’s apprenticeships guidance.  For more details see: https://feweek.co.uk/2020/03/23/coronavirus-9-key-points-from-the-governments-apprenticeships-guidance/

Cross-Industry Construction Apprenticeship Task Force: A letter has been sent by CCATF Chair, Martyn W Price MBE, Chairman Cross-Industry Apprenticeship Task Force, Apprenticeship Ambassador, Workforce Development Director O’Halloran & O’Brien Ltd, to Rt.Hon. Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for the Department for Education.  The letter includes a very specific ask and a call to action for the Minister to consider:

‘all flexibilities in the redistribution of any unspent current Apprenticeship Levy and suspend the expiry of any subsequent unspent future Levy funds, which are then ring fenced, for any future apprenticeship related interventions.’

CITB: Revise Support to Employers running funded projects.  A message from CITB states they understand that the progress of the commission may be affected.  There is no need to contact them with your concerns, members of the funding team will contact you, if they have not done so already.

24.3.20 Levy

The CITB Board are meeting this week to examine and discuss am range of options to help employers with the levy

23.3.20 Grants

CITB are urging all employers not to dismiss apprentices, the 20 week grant claim processing rule is frozen, they urge employers to check their Grant Online accounts for claims which need authorising, and to sign and return any paper Grant Claim forms we have issued as quickly as possible.

20.4.20 Health and Safety Testing:

Health and Safety test centres are temporarily closed they are working on alternative ways to test.  If you have any concerns or queries, please email: HSEtestdev@citb.co.uk

17.3.20 National Construction College

All training at National Construction Colleges is cancelled.

19.3.20 Funding

Skills and training fund will launch as planned on 01 April 2020.  CITB are reviewing how funds can be used to help businesses retain essential skills and support managers to provide the right leadership.

16.3.20 Spring Engagements

All spring engagements are cancelled, on-line alternatives will be issued soon.

23.3.20 Apprenticeships

Employers are urged not to dismiss any apprentices.  It is clear that relief must come rapidly, and we will announce details in days rather than weeks.  A letter was issued to all CITB apprentices via email 19 March 2020.  Although college provision will cease liaison with CITB Apprenticeship Offices will continue via electronic means.

19.3.20 Construction Training Directory and Construction Training Register:

CITB Approved training Organisations are encouraged to relax cancellation and refund policies.

20.30.20 Site Safety Plus

CITB encourage all Site Safety Plus centres to relax cancellation and refund policies, additionally, any delegate whose SMSTS/SSSTS achievement has expired since 15 March 2020 and who hasn’t been able to renew in time due to COVID-19, will be allowed to take the refresher rather than the full course.

19.3.20 Quality Assurance

Quality Assurance activities are reduced to electronic responses.  Investigations will be risk assessed case by case as CITB’s compliance teams are committed to continuing their important work of identifying and protecting the construction industry from fraud risks relating to training delivery.

23.3.20 SkillsBuild:

The full Regional Qualifier schedule this year has been postponed, contingencies are under discussion.

20.3.20 Go Construct Ambassadors:

All Ambassador events are postponed until the end of April 2020.

For more detail check: https://www.citb.co.uk/urgent-messages/

20.3.20 CSCS latest:

CSCS are asking the industry to support the following temporary measures:

  1. Requesting employers and those responsible for site access and card checking procedures to use their discretion towards workers whose cards have expired since mid-March onward and who can provide evidence that they have been unable to sit their test or undertake the required training as a result of the closure of Test and Training centres.

This is at the employer’s discretion until the situation has stabilised.

Government Action Plan
Click here

The Government have given more information about the action plan they are following here.

We are now in the Delay Phase, which is designed to slow the spread in this country, lowering the peak impact and pushing it away from the winter season.

The Governments approach is clinically led, based on the expert advice of the UK’s Chief Medical Officer for England, the NHS and Public Health England. Businesses should check for daily updates here and it is advisable to subscribe to receive email alerts to ensure they are acting on the most up to date information (FIS will be monitoring these on behalf of our members).

Insurance
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In terms of cover for Business Interruption, for cover to exist members would need to have purchased an extension called “Notifiable Diseases Extension” as the government has declared COVID 19 a notifiable disease. This extension is usually only offered/bought in the leisure sector by Hotels, Restaurants, Sporting Venues etc, where profit is driven by foot fall. It is rare for this extension to have been purchased in the construction/manufacturing/wholesale sector.

FIS COVID-19 Strategy
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FIS is dedicating all of our resources to supporting members through this difficult time.  Our strategy is focussed on:
  • Inform: Targeted, accurate, clear and tight information based on filtering and abridging official sources and helpful information shared through the FIS. Delivered through website, daily bulletins and social channels.
  • Engage: Reach out members on the phone to see how they are coping, check if our guidance is getting through and whether they have any specific needs we can meet. To ensure that they know we are there to help, to listen if they want to talk things through and reassure that they are not alone.
  • Develop: Creating new resources, tools and template resources to help members to develop their own business continuity plans and spare their resources to deal with the day-to-day.
  • Influence: Continue to feed intelligence in to the civil service and umbrella bodies to ensure that they are acting on the very latest information and feed in ideas around how support could be targeted for our sector. Critical is keeping sites open for as long as is practical and safe, should sites close the focus is emergency support for businesses.
  • Re-enforce: Amplify all through social media and ensure that we get critical and targeted help to as many people in as many businesses as is possible
  • Community: We are reaching out to the supply chain looking at how we can work together, sharing best practice and collating helpful advice and specific issues related to availability of products and logistics.
  • Network: Finally we are reaching out to our wider network, working with other trade bodies to share resources and with members of our community to develop a programme of targeted expert webinars and resources that we will roll out over the coming week.

You can access our latest daily update here

Additional useful resources for businesses and employers from around the web
Click here

For the latest information and advice, employers and business owners should visit guidance for employers and businesses. Check this page regularly for updates, urgent advice will be issued via emai alerts.

FIS Webinar – COVID-19 and Employment Matters (24 March 2020)
Listen to experts from ClarksLegal discuss employment and contractual matters – https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/6474066707118183942

Information includes:

Guidance on advice to provide to staff including: how to help prevent spread of COVID-19; what to do if someone suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 has been in a workplace setting; advice to give to individuals who have travelled to specific areas; and advice for the certification of absence from work resulting from COVID19

Information on the support available to businesses impacted by COVID-19

Government is also advising businesses to build their own resilience by reviewing their business continuity (see below), developing an understanding on the potential impacts to their supply chains, customers or other factors critical to their operations.

Crisis Communications 

Managing Remote Work 

 Thanks to www.findcourses.co.uk for sending these in, it helps us all when the community shares in this way.

Site Welfare

Concerns over commercial implications and safety concerns.

If you are being impacted by site closures or are concerned about being asked to continue working, please do send details to iainmcilwee@thefis.org 

We are actively looking for feedback on Government Support

If you are trying to access through your bank a COVID-19 continuity loan or Furlough and encountering any problems (or have a good news story), please email janeknight@thefis.org your experience.  Critical information on the loans is how accessible, what guarantees are you being asked for, how is it being delivered (as a loan product or overdraft), what are the likely timescales. 

We also encourage you to share your experiences via the Linkedin Group below – together we are stronger.