Coronavirus and the Construction Industry

19 March 2020

The situation with the Coronavirus, or COVID-19, continues to develop and impact a number of industries as a result. At point of writing, there are 2,626 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the UK with implications being felt throughout the country.

We support the government’s decision to safeguard the nation but cannot ignore the significant impact this will have on the construction industry; an industry that is already recovering from severe storms and floods, the election, Brexit and nitrate pollution (in the south). For now, our goal is to keep our construction sites operational until told otherwise.

How Will the Construction Industry be Affected by the Coronavirus?

We have looked at construction trade organisations Build UK and the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) which have said that the UK construction industry is set to become ‘dramatically and severely affected’ from COVID-19. In a statement released earlier this week, the organisations warned the situation had accelerated over the weekend. And this continues to change every day.

The impact is said to not only affect the on-site labourers but also the supply chain, affecting multiple businesses; it’s thought that the damage to self-employed workers will be ‘catastrophic but unavoidable’.

This week sees the closure of schools, cancellation of large gatherings, advisories on avoiding pubs, bars and gyms, working from home and practising social distancing. There’s the very likely possibility that a future lockdown, and therefore compulsory shut down of sites, could be on the cards. If that happens, the decision to work will of course be taken out of individual companies’ hands and we will all have to adjust to the ramifications of this.

Construction Project Delays

There is a real risk to delays of project completion because of the coronavirus outbreak due to staff illness and absences, delays in supply chain, concerns about finances and many unforeseen circumstances that this pandemic continues to unveil.

In these extremely difficult times, it’s important that we continue to take the necessary safety measures, and as a business continue to keep the communication lines open with our clients and suppliers so there is complete transparency as we work through this situation together.

How to Prepare for the Impact of Coronavirus?

•Identify what, if any, activities can be brought forward or be carried out remotely

•Review health and safety measures of all projects and increase welfare and hygiene facilities

•Cancel or postpone meetings or make them conference calls/online meetings

•Set up clear communication channels with all suppliers and clients – and don’t forget the human element! Everyone is impacted by this so remain kind as we navigate through these times

•Remain up to date and aware of all force majeure contractual clauses for every step of the supply chain

•Protect business critical functions

For the construction industry, it’s impossible for the majority of work to be carried out remotely or from home and with most working as sub-contractors, this is a frightening time as pretty much everyone will be directly affected by loss of income. If this is you, make sure you’re up to date on your rights and follow government advice for additional benefits that have been put forward at this time.

The Financial Impact on Construction Workers

For most sub-contractors in construction, those in permanent employment would see Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) introduced after just one day of being off work sick (or through self-isolation) but those who are self-employed or do not qualify for SSP will not benefit from this. However, the government has said that they will make it quicker and easier to access benefits for all.

If you are not entitled to SSP, you may be able to apply for Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). You can also contact HMRC on 0800 0159 559 for further information and guidance on payments and taxes.

Conversely, there are charities in place that can help with financial support. The Lighthouse Construction Charity can provide financial and emotional support to those that work in the construction industry and their families.

What are Mackoy Doing About the Coronavirus?

Like many businesses, we at Mackoy are taking advice from NHS England and the government on how to best approach the constantly-evolving situation with COVID-19. As things stand, it is business as usual, but should this change, we will follow official guidelines and act as quickly and effectively as possible.

In terms of continuity of back-office matters, we have existing enterprise VPNs and remote access systems already available and regularly used by staff to support working from home, should we require it. In addition, all of our call handling systems are cloud based, which provide the means to route calls to staff should they move office or work from home.

Our MD, Mike Mayock, adds: “Our priority is the safety of those that work on our sites and in our offices, so we have put many precautions in place and continually review the rapidly developing situation. Possibly the most frustrating element from a work perspective is that this is all out of our control yet the impact to all will be huge and unavoidable.”

In this confusing and concerning period of time, we urge all of our staff to also take the necessary safety measures to protect themselves and others from this virus.

We will continue to monitor the situation and practice good hygiene at work and keep you up to date of any changes.

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