Feedback on how to keep construction sites going safely on the eve of England’s second national lockdown on Thursday is being called for by the Construction Leadership Council, CLC.
In a public letter, it flagged up its guidance on safe operation of sites, builders’ merchant outlets, and use of public and private transport to work and temporary housing for workers. The CLC asked for ‘immediate feedback’ on what could be done to make guidance better.
CLC co-chair Andy Mitchell said: “We all understand the need to keep construction workers employed and keeping the economy going, for now, and for the future recovery.
“We have also demonstrated the entire industry depends on the flow of money and materials, and that it is essential that product manufacturers, builders merchants, and distributors keep operating so that we have the materials to build and repair our homes, hospitals, and services. It is imperative that this happens.”
Trade body Build-UK has published an authorization letter template for employers to give to workers if they are stopped on journeys to and from sites anywhere in the UK. Build-UK chief executive Suzannah Nicol said: “Looking after the workforce, who may have their own personal challenges at the moment, is vital to the resilience of the sector, and now is the time to check in with everyone on the team as we countdown to the end of the year.”
Financial help gets extended
Brokers Hank Zarihs Associates said property development lenders would continue to support builders in the middle or about to start projects. Chief executive Shiraz Khan said: “This industry has already proved its resilience and commitment to carrying on delivering new homes and commercial properties. These are vital activities that will at least go some way to minimizing the current economic challenges facing the country.”
The furlough scheme will now remain open until 1st December, with employees receiving 80 per cent of their current salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500. The job support scheme, which was due to come in on Sunday, November 1st, has been postponed until the furlough scheme ends.
However, a high proportion of those working in construction are self-employed and could be hit by the re-introduction of a ‘minimum income floor’ to universal credit payments set to go live on November 13th. The Federation of Small Businesses, FSB, claims that many self-employed people are earning less than the minimum wage so they will be adversely affected.
FSB chief executive Mike Cherry said: “Suspending the minimum income floor for Covid-19 has therefore been both welcome and crucial. As the second wave of this crisis hits, and further decimates income, the removal of the suspension assumes the self-employed are not affected by restrictions and that their earnings aren’t affected if they need to self-isolate or fall ill. This would hit livelihoods and create poverty and hardship.”
The FSB and Trades Union Congress have written to work and pensions secretary Thérèse Coffey raising concerns over the benefit cut for those seeking to earn a living by starting and growing their own business. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has estimated that around 450,000 self-employed workers are negatively impacted by the minimum income floor, losing an average of £3,200 a year each.