19.5.20 New Guidance on Safely Returning to work after Lockdown, from FIS and Cobra Insurance The content of this document has been designed as a resource to assist in the return to work and to support you in planning and the protocols to prepare and safeguard your employees and business. It should be read in conjunction with the Government’s latest advice as well as any sector specific advice for your industry.

19.5.20 New CLC Site Operating Procedures released – As anticipated following new Government Guidance published last week, the CLC Site Operating Procedures have been updated to incorporate a number of technical changes as a result of the new Government guidance published last week.

19.5.20 Official Symptoms list for Employers updated to cover loss of taste and smell A loss or changed sense of taste or smell have been added to the NHS coronavirus symptoms list, alongside a cough and fever to ensure cases are not missed.

19.5.20 Everyone in Wales with symptoms can book a coronavirus test. Wales is joining a new UK-wide system for ordering home testing kits, in line with the Welsh Government’s Test Trace Protect strategy.

19.5.20 Government to accelerate Public Sector Works Build UK advised today that during latest industry conference call with Minister for Business and Industry Nadhim Zahawi last week, where he confirmed that the Government would be identifying public sector construction projects that could be brought forward or accelerated.

19.5.20 Isolation starts to ease in Northern Ireland new advice states Stay at home – only go outside for food, health reasons or work (but only if you cannot work from home)

18.5.20 Official Symptoms list for Employers updated to cover loss of taste and smell A loss or changed sense of taste or smell have been added to the NHS coronavirus symptoms list, alongside a cough and fever to ensure cases are not missed.

18.5.20 Government to accelerate Public Sector Works Build UK advised today that during latest industry conference call with Minister for Business and Industry Nadhim Zahawi last week, where he confirmed that the Government would be identifying public sector construction projects that could be brought forward or accelerated.

18.5.20 Build UK is helping TfL to manage capacity and map future requirements on public transport as more people return to work. Working with our members, we have provided detailed information on over 120 large projects in London, the majority of which are operating staggered start and finish times and do not expect to reach full capacity until July at the earliest.

15.5.20 How do I go about unfurloughing and returning staff to the workplace – Excellent guidance from the CIPD help you plan your organisation’s next steps following a period of furlough or once lockdown measures start easing is available here.

15.5.20 CITB is re-establishing Health, Safety and Environment Test operations in England.  All Pearson Professional Centres in England will be operational from Monday 18 May.  For those outside of England, there are a number of free products to help employers run their own in-house interim testing to give a level of local assurance that an employee is safe to work on their site.

15.5.20 Rapid scaling up of construction evident according to latest figures from Barbour ABIThis week has seen a further significant increase in open projects and a comparable decrease in delayed projects. Total open projects number 2,037 with a value of £75bn (£52bn excluding Hinkley Point). This is an increase of 493 projects and an increase value of £13.4bn.

Most of the increase has been in the residential sector.   Out of the open projects, restarted projects number 961 and have a value of 30.5bn. This is a weekly increase of 285 projects and £10.3bn.   The value of delayed projects has again reduced significantly over the week. We currently have identified 4,266 projects delayed with a value of with a value of £51.3bn.

15.5.20 The cavalry is coming on PPE with new UK Manufacture expected to start as soon as July – More than 70 million FFP2 and FFP3 face masks will be manufactured in Scotland and delivered to frontline health and care workers following an agreement with a global technology company, this should help to ease severe pressure in the construction sector.

14.5.20 New COVID-19 – Site safety checklists, risk assessment tool and toolbox talk available from the CITB – Information has been produced in collaboration with the Construction Leadership Council and supported by Build UK.  The checklist and forms aim to help ensure site operating procedures during COVID-19 are clear and accessible to employees.

COVID-19 – Site operating procedures compliance checklistCOVID-19 – Health safety and environment risk assessment template COVID-19 – A toolbox talk for construction workers | COVID-19 – Weekly site operating procedures checklist

14.5.20 Regulating occupational health and safety during the coronavirus outbreak – HSE is adjusting the focus of its activities, including visits to business premises and sites which will be conducted in line with social distancing regulations and guidelines. HSE will maintain regulatory oversight of how duty holders are meeting their responsibilities in the context of the current public health risk and regulatory approach will continue to take proportionate account of the risks and challenges arising from the pandemic.

14.5.20 Government gives green light to extend working hours for construction sites The Secretary of State for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (Robert Jenrick) issued a written statement yesterday around the need for the construction industry to adapt its normal practices. As part of this, temporary extensions to working hours may be required on some sites to facilitate safe working and allow tasks to be completed where social distancing can be challenging. Longer working hours may also be needed to facilitate social distancing in the wider community, for instance by reducing pressure on public transport. It might be necessary to start work earlier in the day or work until later in the evenings.  To enable this he has requested that, with immediate effect, local planning authorities should take a swift and positive approach to requests from developers and site operators for greater flexibility around construction site working hours. This is to ensure that, where appropriate, planning conditions are not a barrier to allowing developers the flexibility necessary to facilitate the safe operation of construction sites during the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to proceed at pace with work otherwise delayed as a result of COVID-19.  A Q&A to support this approach is available here.

13.5.20 New Charter for Home Builders to support Safe Working – In conjunction with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), HBF has produced the below ‘Charter for Safe Working Practice’ to ensure that home building activity is carried out safely and in accordance with the advice of Government and Public Health England during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

13.5.20 RICS Disputes Resolutions Service Launches Summary Adjudication – As the economic effect of the Covid-19 impacts severely on the construction industry, there are many contractors in the smaller end of the market who are struggling to access dispute resolution even under the reduced cost of Low Value Adjudication (LVD MAP) process.

For a limited period initially until the end of July, as a specific response to the needs of the industry, RICS are now offering Summary Adjudication for claims below £20 000.

13.5.20 New HMG statistics show over £14 billion in loans  have been issued as part of the coronavirus crisis support. This includes 268,000 Bounce Back Loans worth £8.3 billion (approval rate 74%, average loan £31,241), 36,000 loans worth over £6 billion (50% approval, average loan £169,660) through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, and £359 million through the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme.  Experience from FIS is that to date only a third of firms who have applied for the CBILS loans from our sector have been approved to date.  There has been similar more positive (anechdotal) news on the  smaller Bounce Back Loans and there is further good news in that 14 new lenders have been added to the scheme, which will help to widen the reach.

13.5.20 Applications for Self-Employment Income Support Scheme open early – The government’s world-leading scheme to support the self-employed has today opened for claims.

13.5.20 Government to support businesses through Trade Credit Insurance guarantee Businesses with supply chains which rely on Trade Credit Insurance and who are experiencing difficulties maintaining cover due to Coronavirus will get support from the governmentThis should be positive news for cashflow in the construction sector.

13.5.20 Housing Secretary sets out plan to re-start housing market From today anyone in England can move home if they follow new guidance published by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick.  This should help to unlock the housing market in England.

12.5.20 Chancellor extends furlough scheme until October 2020 – The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will remain open until the end of October, the Chancellor announced today. The scheme will continue to apply across all regions and sectors in the UK economy. Furloughed workers across the UK will continue to receive 80% of their current salary, up to £2,500.

From the start of August, furloughed workers will be able to return to work part-time with employers being asked to pay a percentage towards the salaries of their furloughed staff. The employer payments will substitute the contribution the government is currently making, ensuring that staff continue to receive 80% of their salary, up to £2,500 a month.

The scheme will continue in its current form until the end of July. Changes to allow more flexibility will come in from the start of August. More specific details and information around implementation will be made available by the end of this month.

12.5.20 Construction Industry Coronavirus (CICV) Forum issues five-point plan to help contractors – The CICV Forum has written to Holyrood urging the Government to adopt a five-point plan to assist contractors through the worst of the COVID-19 crisis.

12.5.20 Contractual and Commercial Considerations for the Return to Site. New Guidance to support Scottish Contractors from the CICV Forum.

11.5.20 New guidance on safer working has been published by HMG covering eight key working environments.  The Construction Leadership Council will be reviewing Site Operating Procedures in conjunction with this, but in the meantime it is worth referring to new Guidance on PPE and Face Masks to support existing risk management strategies.

11.5.20 The Government is considering how to phase out the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, recognising the impact of a ‘cliff edge’ if it ends abruptly at the end of June 2020. A CLC working group has made a number of recommendations to the Treasury on how it could be extended as a ‘work support’ scheme.

11.5.20 In his address on Sunday, the PM said people who could not work from home – including those in the manufacturing and construction industries – should be “actively encouraged to go back to work” but avoid public transport. Mr Raab confirmed that this will apply from Wednesday.  New guidance is anticipated in the next 48 hours from Government to assist the H&S aspects here.  

7.5.20 Emergency loan fund for SME housebuilders in Scotland Housebuilders in Scotland will be able to apply for short-term loans of up to £1 million from the Scottish Government to support them through the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with liquidity issues due to the temporary closure of the housebuilding sector will be able to apply to a £100 million Scottish Government emergency loan fund which aims to:

  • safeguard jobs and protect suppliers
  • support post-COVID-19 economic recovery and the continued supply of homes
  • retain diversity of the housebuilding sector

7.5.20 Government Backs New Industry Guidance to Avoid Disputes – The Construction Leadership Council COVID-19 Task Force has published practical guidance for all companies involved in the construction supply chain on how to minimise potential disputes.  This is supported by UK Government today outlining its expectations from businesses as they manage and enforce B2B contracts during the COVID-19 emergency.  The recognise a concern that the construction industry will become embroiled in costly and long-running disputes over the effects of the pandemic on projects if it does not look to engage in collaborative discussions to resolve these issues.

7.5.20 FIS Updates our H&S Toolkit with new guidance on PPE/RPE and Methodologies for Working the toolkit includes a range of supporting resources to help members return to work safely

6.5.20 Build UK partner Anderson Strathern has produced an addendum to Build UK’s Guidance on Contractual Issues Caused by Coronavirus, setting out the amendments required for use in Scotland with SBCC contracts.

6.5.20 Build UK Market Update: BuildUK reported today that this week 73% of sites are open in England and Wales, up from 69% last week. Over 80% of infrastructure and construction projects are running, this is lower in housing just over half of housing sites (55%) are now open for business, compared to 46% last week. Interestingly they are reporting productivity on infrastructure and construction sites is averaging 71%, up from 67% last week. Construction sites in London remain a challenge, although output has improved from 56% to 63% in the last week.

6.5.20 Local leaders pledge to continue vital building safety work – leaders from 25 councils have pledged their commitment to ensuring vital building safety work continues during the pandemic.

5.5.20 Update on the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme – It has been confirmed that the scheme will now be delivered ahead of the original June schedule – with individuals able to apply for the grant from 13 May. HMRC will begin contacting eligible self-employed individuals this week by email, text and letter to inform them that they are eligible and explain what they need to do to apply. Applications will open in tranches using the Unique Tax Reference (UTR) number given to all self-employed taxpayers.

5.5.20 Cast publishes new post Covid-19 Market Overview Mark Farmer, author of the now infamous “Modernise or Die”, has published thoughts on the likely commercial and practical delivery implications on the construction sector arising from the current Covid-19 crisis.  The excellent overview includes the likely impact on current projects still to be completed on site as well as a further look ahead at the considerations that will shape successful future projects being commissioned in what is likely to be a very different real estate market.

5.5.20 CITB has extended the application deadline for its Leadership and Management Development Fund from 12 June to 31 July 2020, in light of the fact that a number of organisations have furloughed staff who would usually prepare the bids for funding. The one-year fund enables CITB-registered businesses with more than 250 directly employed staff to bid for up to £100,000 to develop their leadership, management and supervisory skills.

5.5.20 A discretionary fund has been set up by the Government to support small businesses with less than 50 employees affected by coronavirus with their ongoing fixed property-related costs. Whilst local authorities are being asked to prioritise businesses, such as those in shared spaces and small charity properties, they may choose to pay grants of up to £25,000 to other businesses based on local economic need.

4.5.20 Build UK has teamed up with KPMG to provide excellent guidance on tax measures introduced by HMRC in response to coronavirus, including Time to Pay, business rates and property-related grants, income tax deferral, VAT, and corporate tax.

4.5.20 Alok Sharma, Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, has responded to the Construction Leadership Council’s recent letter to the Prime Minister. He confirms that guidance has been provided to public authorities on PPN 02/20, giving those that hold cash retentions the ability to release all or part of these monies in relation to projects and promoting the use of Project Bank Accounts to accelerate payment to firms within the supply chain.  If you have worked on a public sector contract and have retention outstanding, it is worth using this as leverage in trying to secure retention.

4.4.20 The Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) opens for applications today.

  • Businesses can borrow between £2,000 and £50,000, capped at 25% of turnover, with no fee to access the scheme
  • The Government will guarantee 100% of the loan and there will not be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months
  • Loan terms will be up to 6 years and no repayments will be due during the first 12 months
  • Interest rates will be capped at 2.5% per annum
  • Lenders are not permitted to take personal guarantees or recovery action over a borrower’s personal assets (such as their main home or personal vehicle).

To be eligible for the scheme, a business must be based in the UK, have been negatively affected by coronavirus, have been trading on 1 March 1 2020, and not have been an ‘undertaking in difficultly’ as of 31 December 2019.   Note this is different from the CBILS loans that are now kick in at £50,001.

1.5.20 To help contractors working away from home find local accommodation, Build UK has temporarily repurposed its Open Doors website. The website is live but still a work in progress and accommodation will continue to be added. We have teamed up with trade body UK Hospitality, which has confirmed that during the lockdown its members are able to provide accommodation for workers unable to return home. If your site requires accommodation and none is shown locally, please let us know and we’ll work with BuildUK to try and sort something

30.4.20 FIS ‘Four Step People First’ COVID-19 Safety Protocol approach to managing safety gets the Green Light from  experts at COBRA Insurance Brokers, the company we have been working with to develop new insurance products for FIS Members.

30.4.20 Allocation looms again – BG to introduce the allocation system from week commencing Monday 18th May 2020. From 1st to 15th May, we will aim to fulfil all existing accepted and confirmed orders, subject to product availability. New orders may be placed from Monday 11th May for delivery w/c 18th May onwards in line with advised allocation quantities.

30.4.20 Treasury cut taxes to reduce PPE costs – From 1 May 2020, PPE purchased by care homes, businesses, charities and individuals to protect against Covid-19 will be free from VAT for a three-month period.  FIS has raised concerns about this increasing competition for construction works that require use of RPE e.g. to continue working in dusty environments.

30.4.20 Construction Leadership Council Endorses the Conflict Avoidance Pledge – The Conflict Avoidance Pledge has been developed by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). Under the pledge, clients and contractors commit to implementing conflict avoidance measures in their contracts and on site. The pledge will reduce the financial cost of disputes and help projects be delivered on time and in budget.

30.4.20 Research by the Construction Leadership Council’s Covid-19 Taskforce on financial support to the sector has said that Government-backed loans to construction businesses must be streamlined.  Note, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) has published guidance on preparing a strong loan application.

29.4.20 FIS and a number of Trade Associations from a number of key sectors members  met with Paul Scully, Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets, today to discuss regulatory changes and other issues that would support SMEs during and after the coronavirus (COVID‐19) crisis. The Minister recognised the value of SMEs, stating that “people will look back on this time and ask businesses what did you do to support your supply chain and community during the coronavirus pandemic”.

Build UK Chief Executive Suzannah Nichol was one of five representative organisations invited to speak on behalf of small businesses and requested the Minister’s support for the following:

  • Permission to Work
    • Reiterate the message that construction companies of all sizes are being asked to continue their operations alongside the Government’s ‘stay at home’ policy
    • Provide clarity on the work that tradesmen are able to carry out in people’s homes
    • Increase capacity on public transport, providing a safe way to travel to work.
  • Liquidity and Cash Flow
    • Ensure banks are efficiently processing Government‐backed loans
    • Delay or stop the introduction of Reverse Charge VAT in October 2020
    • Stop the withholding of retention monies by the public sector and release retention monies currently withheldo Effectively and consistently implement PPN 02/20 across all public authorities.
  • Maintaining Productivity
    • Confirm and accelerate public sector construction work in the pipeline
    • Ensure planning departments remain operational
    • Agree extended working hours for construction projects
    • Introduce flexibility into the furlough scheme.

29.4.20  The Government has announced that coronavirus (COVID‐19) testing has been extended to anyone who goes into work because they cannot work from home and is showing symptoms of coronavirus. This includes construction workers, as well as people they live with who have symptoms, and there are two ways to arrange a test:

  • Self‐referral ‐ enables workers and members of their households who have symptoms to book a test directly using the online system
  • Employer referral ‐ allows employers to refer workers for a test via a secure portal. Employers will need to obtain a login by emailing portalservicedesk@dhsc.gov.uk with their organisation name, nature of their business, region, and names and email addresses for two users. Contractors may find it more efficient for clients already registered for their essential workers to request the test on their behalf.

29.4.20 Build UK Contractor members are reporting that almost 70% of their sites are open in England and Wales. The majority are construction (81%) and infrastructure (78%) sites, with members that include housing in their portfolios confirming that less than half of their housing sites (46%) are open for business. Productivity on construction and infrastructure sites is averaging 67%, with London construction sites proving to be a particular challenge at just 56% output being achieved.

28.4.20 The Construction Leadership Council has launched a new website to showcase the industry’s role in fighting the pandemic.  If you would like to include information on this site email yasminkauser@thefis.org

28.4.20 FIS Four Step Protocol to Develop Safe Systems of Work and the COVID-19 Pandemic 2020  has been developed to ensure that there is a COVID-19 risk assessment in place for the management of health and safety upon each project that prioritises safety, reducing the risk to workers and liability for individual companies.  This supports the work our COVID-19 H&S Workgroup have already completed including our H&S Task Assessment Tool (updated 27.4.20).

28.4.20 FIS Survey Results reveal around 2/3rds still working, 75% of respondents fear Material Supply will hold up recovery and less than 20% have bothered with COVID Business Interruption Loans (CBILS).

27.4.20 The Chancellor today Bounce Back Loans scheme will allow businesses to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000 and access the cash within days. Loans will be interest free for the first 12 months, and from Monday 4 May, businesses can apply online through a short and simple form.  The Government, which has been consulting extensively with business representatives about the design of the new scheme, will provide lenders with a 100% guarantee for the loan and pay any fees and interest for the first 12 months. No repayments will be due during the first 12 months.  The loans will be easy to apply for through a short, standardised online application. Loans should reach businesses within days – providing immediate support to those that need it as easily as possible.

The scheme will launch for applications on Monday 4 May. Firms will be able to access these loans through a network of accredited lenders. The government will work with lenders to ensure loans delivered through this scheme are advanced as quickly as possible and agree a low standardised level of interest for the remaining period of the loan.

The new scheme will run alongside the existing Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS).  As well as adding four new providers to the lender list (taking it now to 52 eligible providers).  The Government is also taking additional steps on the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) to ensure that lenders have the confidence they need to process finance applications quickly, including removing the per lender portfolio cap for the government guarantee, and changing the viability tests that so that all banks will need to assess is whether a business was viable pre COVID-19.

27.4.20 To help open up the supply chain, Build UK is working with members of trade bodies from across the sector to demonstrate the levels of demand and members are asked to complete this short Materials & Accommodation Survey to provide the following information as soon as possible and by 5:00pm on Wednesday 29 April at the latest.

25.4.20 Health Secretary Matt Hancock comfortable with Construction scaling back up.  Mr Hancock has told Sky News that while the daily number of UK deaths due to coronavirus meant the country was not yet ready to start easing some social-distancing rules, he was not opposed to building sites and hardware stores resuming work.

“The things that are restarting are things that we never required to close in the first place, but what the companies have been doing is working out how they can have safe working following the social distancing rules whilst people are at work.  Throughout we’ve allowed hardware stores to stay open, and the construction industry, but what businesses have been doing is taking the last couple of weeks to work out ‘ok how do you stay open and stay within the social-distancing rules at work?’. So it’s absolutely fine for those businesses to stay open because they were never required to close by the social-distancing rules. I’m comfortable with what they’re doing.”

24.4.20 The Government has confirmed that coronavirus (COVID‐19) testing is now available for essential workers and members of their households who are showing symptoms of coronavirus. Some construction workers working on projects or infrastructure critical to the response to coronavirus may be categorised as essential workers.  Companies and individuals wishing to access the service can register via the link above.

24.4.20 Construction Industry Survey – Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Along with other construction industry bodies, we are keen to understand your experience with the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Please complete this short survey.

21.4.20 New Irish Site Operating Procedures – The Construction Industry Federation in Ireland has now published their equivalent site operating procedures.  There are clear parallels with those produced by the Construction Leadership Council in the UK, however, greater clarity is provided to support close working and transport.

21.4.20 FIS Updates Task Assessment Tool – Based on feedback FIS has now released an updated of our H&S Task Assessment Tool, changes include minor modifications to the main assessment list and the addition of a new checklist to support return to work inspections.

21.4.20 Latest statement from Build UK identifies that the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) is looking at a recovery plan for the industry and how to release workers from furlough in a phased manner. Following its Statement on Payment and Contracts earlier this month, the CLC also continues to call for collaborative ways of working to avoid costly contractual disputes which are more than likely to result in insolvencies.

Whilst construction clients have responded in different ways, the Government has been very clear on the response expected from public sector clients. Earlier this month the Cabinet Office published supplementary Guidance Notes for Construction Contracts to support contracting authorities in implementing PPN 02/20 – Supplier Relief due to COVID-19.

21.4.20 FIS are starting to hear concerns around the probity of PPE that is being purchased to support a return to site.  Working with the British Safety Industry Federation, we are recommending using the BSIF checklist before investing in kit, this has been added to our FIS H&S Toolkit.  FIS has established a working group to review concerns over sourcing and managing PPE related issues, for more information email, georgeswann@thefis.org

20.4.20 Government launches new coronavirus business support finder tool – A new ‘support finder’ tool will help businesses and self-employed people across the UK to quickly and easily determine what financial support is available to them during the coronavirus pandemic.

20.4.20 The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is open, you can claim for your employees’ wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).  A step by step guide for employers has been prepared by HMRC.  So far feedback from FIS members is mixed, mostly positive, but complexity of calculation and issues if periods are not consistent between staff have been flagged.

20.4.20 Northern Irish Assembley publishes list of essential works, the list restricts construction work to:

  • Any new builds/conversions/maintenance supporting, health service and related activities, other emergency and security services, food manufacture, supply & logistics and utilities
  • Any new builds/conversions/maintenance supporting priority sectors identified by either local ornational governments
  • Emergency services to businesses and homes on an emergency call-out basis in areas such as electrical, heating, plumbing, glazing and roofing or emergency repair related to fire, theft and burglary
  • Supply of construction materials and builders’ merchants for the above.

18.4.20 Clarification on The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which officially launches on Monday 20 April. Yesterday evening (Friday 17 April) there was a flurry of new guidance on the operation of the scheme.  From clarification on holidays, the revised duration of the scheme and information on how to submit your claim, our experts have summarised the main changes that your business needs to know ahead of Monday.

17.4.20 FIS Launch new COVID-19 Task assessment tool to support companies in making vital H&S decisions.  The tool is a first draft and will evolve over the coming weeks.

17.4.20 The UK Government have advised that the current lockdown procedures will continue for a further three weeks which means that construction sites must continue to implement the Site Operating Procedures ‐ Version 3 for the foreseeable future. Projects are adapting site facilities and introducing extended working hours, and Build UK members Highways England, Wates and VolkerWessels UK have all shared examples of how social distancing is being achieved In-line with advice from Damian James in the recent FIS webinar and the advice on ‘what to do in suspensions‘, it is now important that members issue a further notice advising of the potential impacts on their subcontracts.  The notice should consider any further impacts in the period since the first notice and should advise of the future impacts anticipated. Members should give due consideration to the availability of materials and labour resources along with the expected effects of productivity levels due to distancing between operatives on projects when drafting their notice.

17.4.20 New data from Barbour ABI on State of the Market – Barbour are reporting a further small increase in the volume of delayed projects with the total value currently standing at £71bn. The report includes some interesting survey evidence, a report of projects staying open and further findings of delays at the sub-sector level.

17.4.20 The Minister for Business and Industry Nadhim Zahawi, held a conference call with representatives of BuildUK who gave a first‐hand update on the current challenges faced by the supply chain. Read further details of the Ministerial discussion here.

17.4.20 FIS Members who applied early for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme urged to re-check eligibility  Following this contact from a member yesterday: “I’m indebted to you for the survey this morning as it made me realise that although initially I was not eligible for CBILS as I could get normal commercial borrowing, I am in fact now eligible as they have updated the scheme, thank you for prompting me.  I have just spoken to my Relationship Manager and she will support our application and she says it’s a no brainer in terms of comparison to overdraft.”

On the 3rd April 2020 The Chancellor announced reforms to the loans, which will likely have taken a few days to filter through.  These included:

  • The removal of the need for businesses to show that they can’t get a loan on normal commercial terms before they qualify for the loan scheme.
  • Banning the requirement of personal guarantees for loans of up to £250,000.
  • Although personal guarantees can be sought for loans over £250,000, they will be limited to 20% of any amount outstanding on the lending after other recoveries from business assets.
  • Making operational changes to speed up lending approval

The new rules about security will extend to loans already made to ensure all businesses are treated equally under the scheme. Although the government had previously banned the taking of security against principal private residences, many business owners were not prepared to offer any personal security at a time of such uncertainty.

17.4.20  Chancellor expands loan scheme for large businesses -A government-backed loan scheme for large businesses affected by coronavirus has been expanded to cover all viable firms, the Chancellor announced today.  Outlining further details of the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loans Scheme (CLBILS) ahead of its launch on Monday, Rishi Sunak said all firms with a turnover of more than £45 million will now be able to apply for up to £25 million of finance, and up to £50 million for firms with a turnover of more than £250 million.  Business with turnovers of more than £500 million were originally not eligible for the scheme, which is being set up to help firms who do not qualify for the existing Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme – for small and medium sized businesses – and the Bank of England Covid Corporate Financing Facility – for investment grade companies

16.4.20 Covid-19 Delay Clauses – It is sensible for companies to be proactive and try to ensure that there is protection in their contracts against the effects of Covid-19. This factsheet incluses a suggested example clause, for inclusion in tender packages.

16.4.20 Preparing your Furlough Claim – HMRC has confirmed that the claims portal will open on 20 April. They have in communicating this updated what a claimant will need to know/have before starting. Access a simple checklist here.

You can access the latest Tax Update from the Joint Taxation Council here

16.4.20 Thousands more employees will able to receive support through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) after the eligibility date was extended to 19 March 2020, the government announced today.

16.4.20 It has been confirmed that The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is the enforcing authority for PHE guidelines and will consider a range of actions for non‐compliance, from providing advice to issuing enforcement and prohibition notices. It has also set up a website for workers to report concerns about health and safety where they cannot be resolved by speaking with their employer or trade union.

15.4.20 The impact of COVID-19 across the Construction Industry [Infographic] – following consultation with main contractors, Constructionline introduced a new question set to understand how COVID-19 is affecting members, their businesses, and their staff. Over 3,400 businesses have completed the new question set so far, giving us a great insight into how the industry is coping during this pandemic.

15.4.20 Version 3 Site Operating Procedures Published – click here to download

14.4.20 The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has issued guidance outlining temporary measures to relax competition between businesses, in order to ensure that essential supplies are available and key workers can travel safely to their place of work. The CMA has stated that this “does not give a ‘free pass’ to businesses to engage in conduct that could lead to harm to consumers in other ways” and it “will not tolerate unscrupulous businesses exploiting the crisis as a ‘cover’ for non-essential collusion”.

14.4.20 Coronavirus (COVID-19): personal protective equipment (PPE) hub:  A new hub containing guidance on personal protective equipment (PPE), and infection prevention and control (IPC) is now available, containing information for both health and social care settings and other workers and sectors.

14.4.20 Latest Statement from Build UK – Includes confirmation that New Site Operating Procedures to be published later today.

14.4.20 New page to replace Understanding Universal Credit Coronavirus and claiming benefits page –  These pages have additional information and will help answer lots of the questions.  Please promote this new site to employees or members as appropriate.  People making new claims for Universal Credit will no longer need to call the Department as part of the process.

14.4.20 Right to Work – Covid-19: Temporary changes to the Statutory Residence Test – it might be useful for employers/members  who are currently recruiting – some changes to Right to Work checks.

13.4.20 Update from Spain: People in manufacturing, construction and some services are being allowed to return to work following a two-week pause, but must stick to strict safety guidelines. More here.

9.4.20 Launch date announced for Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. The Chief Executive of HMRC, Jim Harra, appeared before the Treasury Select Committee and announced that their online system for making claims under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been developed and will be launched on 20 April.

9.4.20 The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has issued a statement calling for construction businesses to pay in accordance with agreed contractual terms. It is vital that all parties understand the implications of the current situation on their contracts and work together to find solutions.

The CLC is increasingly concerned about the management of payment in the supply chain, and the risk that clients and firms will seek to invoke contractual clauses to the detriment of other firms. We are clear that all construction businesses should continue to pay in accordance with agreed contractual terms. Similarly, firms should not be threatening to invoke penalty or other contractual clauses, when it should be the priority of all clients and firms to sustain the industry. Our actions at this time will be remembered. All firms should think hard about how their reputation could be damaged by not doing the right thing

8.4.20 BuildUK have published an updated version of our Guidance on Contractual Issues which includes an appendix setting out the corresponding sub-contract clause numbers for both JCT and NEC standard forms of contract to make it even easier for your members to use.

8.4.20 CPA – UK Economic and Construction Impacts from COVID-19 (Coronavirus) It is expected that the UK economy will contract sharply in 2020 H1. As the negative effects have occurred since the start of March and will only increase in the next few weeks, economic activity in 2020 Q2 is likely to suffer the largest impacts.

8.4.20 In an open Letter to the Manufacturing Sector Secretary of State for Business, Alok Sharma notes “the Government’s priority is saving lives and we have advised that where possible, people should stay at home and work from home. However, our country needs your support to keep supply chains moving and key workers mobile, as well as to protect the economy as much as possible. Every business has a role to play in helping the country defeat coronavirus.  Manufacturing is a critical part of our economy and I would like to be clear that there is no restriction on manufacturing continuing under the current rules.  Whilst he the then goes on to talk about supplies for essential services, this is the clearest statement yet that the reason Government requires certain industries to carry on is related to longer term economic considerations than just to address immediate health issues from the pandemic.

8.4.20 Barbour ABI Covid-19 Economic Briefing April 2020 – Over the last week we have seen a large increase in the number of projects that have been identified as delayed from the Coronavirus pandemic, with construction sectors other than residential starting to see more widespread shutdowns.   Research identifies that:

  • around half of firms have closed all sites
  • circa 10% are restricting activity to essential work only, and
  • the remainder are taking a mixed approach, from:
    ▪ continuing ongoing activity but not starting new work,
    ▪ cutting working hours,
    ▪ shutting smaller sites, or
    ▪ taking a site by site approach considering worker safety among other factors.

8.4.20 The Welsh Government has provided Guidance on Taking all reasonable measures to maintain physical distancing in the workplace Guidance is designed to support 7A of the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) Regulations 2020, which is aimed at any person who required by the Coronavirus Regulations to take all reasonable measures to ensure that a distance of 2 metres is maintained on particular premises.  Guidance recognises that there will be circumstances in which it is not possible to take reasonable measures (e.g. Tasks that require two or more people to undertake them safely, including heavy lifting or carrying dangerous chemicals, although there may be measures that can be adopted elsewhere in the workplace). But employers will be expected to undertake an assessment before concluding there are no reasonable measures that they can take, and there are no blanket exemptions form this legislation. It is an important principle that employers undertake an assessment of what reasonable measures can be taken and to keep this under periodic review.

8.4.20  Public Health England have updated guidance for construction and we have been advised that the new Standard Operating Procedures are due this afternoon.  Key points to note that within the PHE guidance there is no significant tightening of 2m requirements, just “you should still advise staff to keep 2 metres apart as much as possible” it advices “Where face-to-face contact is essential, this should be kept to 15 minutes or less wherever possible”.  There is no reference to appropriate PPE.  It also again gives the rationale that Construction work plays an important role in ensuring public safety and the provision of public services which points to what is essential without defining it.  There is also updated guidance for those working in a domestic setting.

The new manufacturing advice follows a similar thread and reminds “Manufacturing plays an important role in the economy. It can continue if done in accordance with the social distancing guidelines wherever possible. Where it is not possible to follow the social distancing guidelines in full in relation to a particular activity, you should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to continue to operate, and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between staff.”

Advice for retail operations and logistics companies such as builders merchants is also available.

All advice emphasises that to protect your staff, you should remind colleagues daily to only come into work if they are well and no one in their household is self-isolating.

8.4.20 How do you treat the Bank Holidays and annual leave for furloughed employees? New guidance for your business from our partner, Citation

7.4.20 The Cabinet Office has published Guidance Notes for Construction Contracts, providing detailed information for public authorities on how to implement Procurement Policy Note 02/20. New guidance makes it clear that suppliers and contractors must be supported although they should be prevented from claiming separate relief from another source of government financial support on Covid-19 – “to the effect that the supplier gains an undue advantage by claiming relief twice for the same hardship”.

7.4.20 RIDDOR reporting of COVID-19, HSE now determines that you must only make a report under RIDDOR (The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) when:

  • an unintended incident at work has led to someone’s possible or actual exposure to coronavirus. This must be reported as a dangerous occurrence.
    or
  • a worker has been diagnosed as having COVID 19 and there is reasonable evidence that it was caused by exposure at work. This must be reported as a case of disease.

7.4.20 Two-metre rule will protect all workers in Wales from coronavirus – The regulations will mean the 2 metre social distancing rule will apply to any workplace, including homes, where work and repairs are being undertaken and outdoor spaces. The new rules apply to those workplaces not already covered by the original stay-at-home rules introduced almost 2 weeks ago.  The regulation does not state contruction works must stop, but can continue if the 2m rule can be upheld.  A further challenge in Wales for construction workers is the advice from Transport for Wales that states:

Roads should only be used:

  • by key workers (such as health professionals)
  • for travelling to provide support in local communities
  • to get to shops for essential food and medical supplies.

It is currently unclear how this will be interpreted in realtion to construction workers, where there is still no definition for essential works, but for those travelling to site it is advisable that they carry a letter of authorisation (see template resources section on this page).  It is important to note in Wales, this 2m working rule is a Regulatory requirement.

7.4.20 Scottish Government issues Guidance that non -essential construction works should cease– Work on construction sites, unless it is for essential projects (as defined in the new Critical National Infrastructure List), should stop immediately, as confirmed in new guidance for the construction industry.  The guidance makes clear that work on non-essential construction projects should cease unless it is supporting crucial work during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  Any project deemed essential can only continue operating if it can comply with guidance on social distancing, safety and welfare during the COVID-19 outbreak. Any site unable to meet these requirements should close.  This guidance will be reviewed again in 3 weeks, but the position is work should not begin again until we can all be clear how operations can be undertaken safely and in a way that is fully compliant with social distancing.

6.4.20 The government has finally confirmed that apprentices can continue with funded training when employers use the job retention scheme, subject to being paid the apprenticeship minimum wage “for all the time they spend training”.

6.4.20 New Guidance published on use of Face Masks in non-Clinical settings

6.4.20 Update from BuildUK – We are entering the third week of lockdown and liquidity is now the critical issue for construction. This point was made loud and clear to the Construction and HS2 Ministers last week by representatives from across the supply chain.

5.4.20 Business Secretary appeals to everyone to stay calm and carry on the good work.  Business Secretary, Alok Sharma, writes for The Sun on Sunday thanking workers and businesses for their support during the coronavirus pandemic.  FIS responds, pointing again to confusion still being perpitrated in the statement around essential works and the practicality of 2m safe distancing rules.

3.4.20 Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme revamped  in light of increasing calls from business owners that financial support is not getting through sufficiently quickly, or at all,  to those who need it most. Only £145 million of the £330 billion finance made available by the government has been lent to date.

The Chancellor’s reforms included:

  • The removal of the need for businesses to show that they can’t get a loan on normal commercial terms before they qualify for the loan scheme.
  • Banning the requirement of personal guarantees for loans of up to £250,000.
  • Although personal guarantees can be sought for loans over £250,000, they will be limited to 20% of any amount outstanding on the lending after other recoveries from business assets.
  • Making operational changes to speed up lending approval

The new rules about security will extend to loans already made to ensure all businesses are treated equally under the scheme. Although the government had previously banned the taking of security against principal private residences, many business owners were not prepared to offer any personal security at a time of such uncertainty.

3.4.20 A new Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme will offer 80% government guarantees on loans of up to £25 million to businesses with an annual turnover of between £45 million and £500million  (the ‘squeezed middle’ who fell between the previously announced schemes of support for SMEs and larger businesses). These loans will be offered at commercial lending rates and further details will be announced shortly.

3.4.20 Construction Leadership Council held a conference call yesterday afternoon with Nadhim Zahawi, Minister for Business and Industry with responsibility for Construction, and Andrew Stephenson, Minister of State at the Department for Transport with responsibility for HS2 and the Northern Powerhouse Rail, where they heard from industry representatives, including Suzannah Nichol, Build UK Chief Executive, and Leo Quinn, Chief Executive of Balfour Beatty, on the issues affecting the whole supply chain.  The Ministers reaffirmed that construction is a cornerstone of the economy and the vital work it is performing now, and in the future, will be crucial to the economy’s recovery.

The Ministers reaffirmed that construction is a cornerstone of the economy and the vital work it is performing now, and in the future, will be crucial to the economy’s recovery.

2.4.20 FIS to establish COVID-19 H&S Taskforce.  There are a number of instances that are being identified in the Finishes and Interiors Sector where it may not be possible to comply with the 2m individual proximity rule.  FIS is establishing a structured process to look at individual tasks and situations and is forming a taskforce to review the list, create appropriate risk assessments and identify options, that will ensure, where possible, works can continue safely.  Through this process we aim to produce clear unambiguous guidance and a more agile approach to review innovative solutions and support the sharing of best practice.  We are asking companies in our community to complete the this questionnaire to help initiate this work.

2.4.20 URGENT New CLC Site Operating Procedures (v2) have been withdrawn. Note version 2 had included more explicit advice around safe working distances, a request from Transport for London (TfL) to avoid using the tube network during peak times and updates from PHE to reference those living with someone who has shown signs of COVID‐19 infection, those living with someone who is shielding, 60%+ alcohol‐based hand sanitiser and advice pm keeping groups of workers together to minimise transfer of infection across the workforce.  We await clarification on the particular issues that led to withdrawal, but in the meantime companies are advised to refer back to CLC Site Operating Procedures Version 1.

2.4.20 New Guidance Issued through the Construction Leadership Council on Furlough.  This includes a comprehensive FAQs list on construction specific queries.  I know from discussions with many of you that this is a hot-button issue at the moment, so I trust it can prove useful.  Updates are likely, and this document will be updated accordingly.

2.4.20 New Guidance for FIS and Cobra Insurance Issues Related to COVID-19

1.4.20 CLC letter to PM 01 April 2020:  In response to the letter from Secretary of State Alok Sharma MP, The Construction Leadership Council writes to the Prime Minister to ask him to look again at support for construction businesses and clarity over a Minimum Essential Works list

31.3.20 FIS Employment Law Advisors Citation are hosting a webinar for members specifically on Coronavirus and HR and Employment Law on Wednesday 1 April at 1:00pm. You will need to register to book your place.

31.3.20 To help protect health on construction sites and maintain social distancing during COVID-19, CITB has produced a toolbox talk for construction workers. Topics covered include: travelling to work and what to do if someone thinks they are unwell. More details, including posters for supervisors to display in the workplace, can be found here. Further safety guidance from the Construction Leadership Council can be found here.

31.3.20 CITB A three area support package focusing on cash flow explained in a video, levy collection delayed until August, 20 week claiming rule suspended giving longer time for employers to grant and early payment of apprenticeship grants. FIS is offering free skills clinics to help companies review their existing claims to ensure that they are optimising grant claim.   To access email: info@thefis.org 

31.3.20 Trade bodies in Scotland have set up the Construction Industry Coronavirus Forum to lead the industry response to the pandemic. The position on construction work in Scotland is not clear, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon advising that “sites should close unless the building being worked on is essential – such as a hospital” without then specifying what else is considered essential. The Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Economy Fair Work and Culture has written to representatives in the industry, stating: “We are considering whether guidance could be issued to determine if a construction site can be safely operated in line with social distancing”.

31.3.20 Secretary of State Alok Sharma writes an open letter to the construction industry to thank for their service.  It is the view of the FIS that this letter does little to clarify matters around essential works and concerns over site safety.

31.3.20 Right to Work checks have been temporarily adjusted to make it easier for employers to carry them out during the coronavirus outbreak. Until further notice, employers do not need to see original documents and can complete Right to Work checks over video calls.

31.3.20 HMRC is running a series of webinars to provide an overview of the support available to help employers and your employees deal with the economic impacts of COVID-19.  You can book a spot on one of these here.

31.3.20 The Construction Leadership Council welcomes the launch today of the Construction Industry Council Low Value Disputes Model Adjudication Procedure (LVD MAP). This adjudication procedure will help SMEs in the construction industry to resolve disputes simply, quickly and cost-effectively. More here

31.3.20 Noble and the economics team at the Construction Products Association have also been producing a regularly updated Covid-19 Market Impact Report and we hope that the detailed insight and scenario planning are of help to all of you trying to navigate the business impact that we are currently experiencing.

 

31.3.20 The Construction Leadership Council, working with the Construction Coronavirus Taskforce, has developed new guidance – Advice on temporary suspension of sites – to ensure that any closures can be achieved as safely as possible, avoiding potential issues while the site is not active.  This guidance is available here.  Members who are leaving offices vacant during this time are reminded to consult with their insurers regarding the extent of cover for an unoccupied building.

30.3.20 No change for construction on the daily briefing.   The UK’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance says there has been a “dramatic fall-off” in the use of the London Underground, as well as a decrease in the use of buses, national rail, and motor vehicles.  He highlights half of all hospital admissions are in London.

30.3.20   A Letter of Authorisation template for the use of companies operating as critical workers or in accordance with Public Health England’s Social Distancing Guidance.   Concerns have been that people have been stopped by the police whilst travelling to construction sites.  We have received an update from BEIS as of the 3th March that all chief constables have be sent the pro forma letter and Government policy clarification.

30.3.20 The Construction Minister, Nadhim Zahawi finally spoke up in The Telegraph on Sunday: “These businesses need to be defended, because we need to minimise the damage to our economy where possible, and be ready to spring back into action as soon as this lockdown is over. There will always be some work that cannot be done from home, whether it is construction or packing boxes in an Amazon warehouse – but we still need houses built and for deliveries to be made”.   FIS is calling for consistency of message, and is disappointed that this tone is not reflected in the Daily briefings.

30.3.20 Coronavirus (COVID-19): an update on the Grenfell Tower site – In response to government advice on the Covid-19 pandemic, the re-wrapping of the Tower has been paused to avoid staff going on-site or using public transport. The re-wrapping progressed well in March, and the remaining ‘older’ wrapping on the lower floors is in good condition. We do not believe pausing the re-wrapping is a cause for concern, but the team is happy to take any questions you might have.

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 Manufacturing – whilst 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 chancellor – further 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