Covid-19 advice

Coronavirus has had a significant impact on businesses – it’s affecting operations, supply chains, customer engagement and service. We are here to do all we can to help and support you in this difficult period. Over the coming weeks we’ll continue to pass on information that we think will help you, so please keep visiting this page for what we anticipate will be daily updates.

Focusing on kindness as we find our ‘new normal’

It is time to restart the economy and return to work. And straightaway! Well, that is the message being sent by the Government to the construction industry (unless you’re based in one of the devolved nations, where the message differs). Regardless of location, and your government’s stance on exiting lockdown, it is clear that we are entering the next phase of the ‘new normal’ that we’ve been reading and hearing about.

With so much uncertainty surrounding every aspect of returning to work, our own well-being needs to be our biggest priority. Some enter this next phase fighting fit, having made the most of our allowed exercise times, others feel fully rested and recharged having used the time to unwind. There are also a large number who have (understandably) struggled throughout the pandemic, and it is worth acknowledging that this is perfectly acceptable given that humans are notoriously bad at dealing with and adapting to sudden change.

So now is the time to be kind to ourselves.

Taking care of physical well-being has a significant impact on overall well-being. It is more than ‘just exercise’ – activity is a major factor in your body functioning at its best. Ensure that you fuel your body well with a balanced diet, get enough sleep and keep yourself well hydrated – especially now that the return to sites will be during warmer weather.

However, possibly the most important thing to focus on is our mental well-being. We’re part of a traditionally masculine industry and masculinity has always struggled to admit to and address any perceived ‘weakness’. Suicide rates within construction are significantly higher than the national average, so perhaps a part of this ‘new normal’ needs to be a change in how we approach and discuss our own mental well-being.

It is time to make the conversation about mental health normal – to break the stigma once and for all so that men feel safe to discuss worries, fears, stress. We are all in this together so let’s open the lines of communication and help each other through trying times. Remember – it is okay to struggle, we’re allowed to need help and it’s healthy to be honest about anxiety.

Monday is the start of the Mental Health Foundation’s annual Mental Health Awareness Week. This year the theme is kindness, and I could not think of a more fitting one. Our scaffolding community has excelled itself during the pandemic, coming together to help society. After everything that we have been though recently, let us be kind to ourselves and each other as we begin the return to work and into the ‘new normal’.

Kind regards,

Robert Candy, Chief Executive

 

Read Robert’s previous articles – ‘We’re in lockdown, but we’re in it together’ and ‘Let's put aside self-interest and focus on community’

Free resources to support your remote workforce

The British Safety Council is offering free online resources to anyone who needs them to help manage the implications of moving towards a more remote workforce during the coronavirus outbreak. These include: “Remote Workers’ Health, Safety and Welfare”; “Mental Health – Start the Conversation”; and “Managing Stress Within Your Team”. Access the resources here.

 

Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Growth Hubs

England’s 38 Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Growth Hubs are available to provide practical support and guidance to local employers and businesses across the country facing the challenges caused by the economic impact of coronavirus. Connect with your local hub here.

 

Data protection and coronavirus: what you need to know

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) have stated that data protection will not stop you sharing information quickly or adapting how you work. Read their guidance here.

Daily webinars

The CBI are delivering daily webinars (presentations via live video) to keep both members and the wider UK abreast of the latest updates and the impact of the virus on key topics and sectors. Sign up to be involved here. Visit the webinars already broadcast via these links:

CBI Daily Coronavirus Webinar – Access to finance

CBI Daily Coronavirus Webinar – Mental health

CBI Daily Coronavirus Webinar – Supporting SMEs impacted by coronavirus

CBI Daily Coronavirus Webinar – Should business be open or not?

CBI Daily Coronavirus Webinar – Job Retention Scheme

CBI Daily Coronavirus Webinar – Cyber security

CBI Daily Coronavirus Webinar – Sick pay and benefits

CITB launch new £5m Leadership and Management Development Fund

The launch of the Leadership and Management Development Fund (LMDF) is part of CITB’s plan to help construction businesses of all sizes improve their leadership and management skills. Smaller businesses can do so via the recently-refreshed and expanded Skills and Training Fund, and now larger businesses with over 250 employees can apply via the LMDF. Employers have been highlighting the need for improved leadership and management and now they will have the ability to address this either in-house or via distance and e-learning. Funding from £5k to £100k is available and applications should be made by 12th June 2020. Read more here and apply via the LMDF page.

 

Skills and Training Fund

CITB has refreshed the Skills and Training Fund to support firms hit by COVID-19. See the full details here.

 

Response plan

Read the CITB coronavirus response plan from CEO Sarah Beale here.

 

Communication updates

CITB will support construction employers throughout the coronavirus crisis and beyond – read their communication updates page.

 

Apprenticeship attendance grants

CITB are making advanced payment of apprenticeship attendance grants of up to £2,500 for second and third year apprentices. These will be available from 6th April 2020 for those already subject to CITB grant support. Application is simple – complete this brief form.

 

Help with apprentices

CITB urges all employers not to dismiss any apprentices without first contacting the Apprenticeship Team for advice: Apprenticeships.COVID19@citb.co.uk

 

Levy bills

CITB have announced that they are suspending the issue of levy bills, initially for three months. Payment will now be sought in August, or possibly later. Read more here.

CLC release Version 4 of Site Operating Procedures

The Site Operating Procedures have been updated to incorporate a number of technical changes as a result of the recently published Government guidance. The changes in Version 4 are minimal and include: Removal of the requirement for face to face contact to be kept to 15 minutes or less; The section on PPE now links to the latest Government guidance on face coverings; References to one-way systems and the reconfiguration of seating and tables and an update on portable toilets; The requirement to share risk assessments with the workforce; Clarification on when to travel to work, as set out in the Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Strategy; Updated links and wording on social distancing. Download the new version here.

 

CLC issue Version 3 of Site Operating Procedures

Construction Leadership Council have issued Version 3 of their Site Operating Procedures. As of 15th April 2020 we presume that this supersedes all previous issues. CLC guidance is intended to introduce consistent measures on construction sites of all types and sizes in line with the Government’s recommendations on social distancing and ensure employers and individuals make every effort to comply. Download the procedures here.

 

CLC Statement on payment and contracts 

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. CLC have therefore written to the Prime Minister, asking for a range of support measures to ensure that the industry continues to honour its financial obligations throughout the supply chain. Read the CLC statement in full here.

 

CLC forms construction industry coronavirus task force

CLC has convened a Construction Industry Task Force to provide a focal point for co-ordinating the industry response to COVID-19, and to facilitate communication between the industry and Government. The members meet on a daily basis, sharing knowledge and support on the CLC website. Read more about the task force here.

 

New advice on coronavirus employment schemes (April 1st update)

Read the Construction Leadership Council’s updated advice.

 

Advice on temporary suspension of sites

Find out more about temporary suspensions here.

 

Site operating procedures during COVID-19 (April 2nd update)

The Construction Leadership Council has further revised guidance to sites operating during the pandemic so that managers can ensure they are protecting their workforce and minimising the risk of spread of infection, in line with the government’s social distancing recommendations. Read the guidelines here.

Coronavirus sick pay scheme opens for applications

Small businesses and employers across the UK who have paid statutory sick pay to staff taking coronavirus-related leave will now be able to claim back the money. The online service is being run by HMRC, and after making an application employers will receive the money within six working days. Read more and click through to the online form here.

 

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is now live

The Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is now up and running – 10 days ahead of schedule. Employers can go online from today to claim cash grants worth up to 80% of wages, capped at £2,500 a month per worker. The scheme is expected to help thousands of firms across the UK and it's hoped that money claimed will be in bank accounts within six working days. Up to 5,000 HMRC staff will operate the scheme, manning phone lines and webchat services to ensure any questions can be answered. The link to the online claims portal can be found at the foot of this page.

 

Chancellor extends furlough scheme to end of June

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been extended by one month, until the end of June, to reflect continuing social distancing measures and the extended lockdown. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, hopes that the extension will allow firms from across the UK to continue to protect millions of jobs. The ‘furlough’ scheme will continue to be monitored to ensure that people and businesses can get back to work as soon as it is safe to do so with a view to driving UK economic recovery. Read more from the Chancellor of the Exchequer here.

 

What you need to know if you are a ‘furloughed’ worker

If you are ‘furloughed’, it will be under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). This scheme allows UK employers whose employees are unable to work to access financial support to ensure that they are able to continue paying a large part of their employees’ salary and ultimately safeguards employees against redundancy. 

HMRC will pay employers a grant meeting 80% of an employee’s usual wage costs, up to £2,500 a month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on the subsidised wage. An employer will then pay the employee 80% of their wages – this is ‘furloughing’. It's worth noting that during ‘furlough’ employees must not carry out any work or volunteering for their employer. Read more here.

 

ACAS issues employment law changes

New legislation making major changes to existing employment regulations came into force on Monday 6th April. Read about the changes here.

 

Claim for your employees’ wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Find out if you’re eligible and how much you can claim to cover wages for employees on temporary leave (‘furlough’) due to COVID-19 by visiting the Government website.

 

Employee rights

For advice around the rights employees have when it comes to sick leave and how employers should handle staff members affected by the virus visit the ACAS site.

 

FAQs for Employers

Citation’s experts have gathered some FAQs around health and safety, HR and Employment Law, and practical steps for employers – read them here. If you need to speak to someone call 0345 844 1111. Remember to mention your Scaffolding Association membership when calling.

 

Support for the self-employed

Indigo Group have published information regarding support for the self-employed on their website.

Be on your guard against coronavirus scammers 

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) is warning people to be on their guard against scammers looking to cash in on the financial hardship that Coronavirus is causing. Attempts to scam personal data and money from individuals and businesses increase when there is an economic downturn as fraudsters look to exploit anxieties and fears. Already, fraudsters are attempting to scam personal data and money, as well as offering bogus insurance products and high-risk investment and pension products. These may be via phishing emails, cold calls, robocalls or automated text messages. The criminals are impersonating claims management companies, insurers, pensions providers and other organisations. Find out more here.

You should be suspicious of any offer that seems too good to be true. Never give any personal or financial details to an unexpected caller. Take a contact name and number, hang up, verify the details online through as many sources as possible and then only call back if you are sure they are genuine. Always check the Financial Conduct Authority’s Financial Services Register to make sure that who you are dealing with is genuine.

Government extends the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

The UK Government has extended the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme so that all viable small businesses affected by COVID-19, and not just those unable to secure regular commercial financing, will now be eligible, should they need finance to keep operating during this difficult time. Read the full details here.

The initial Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme announcement of 23rd March can still be read here.

 

Financial Conduct Authority sets out business priorities

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has today set out its business priorities for the year ahead – with specific focus on the challenges presented by the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. This will largely focus on ensuring that financial services businesses give people the support they need, that people avoid scams, and that financial services businesses and markets know what we expect of them. Read the full FCA press release here.

Government launches NHS Test and Trace service

The NHS Test and Trace service – a central part of the government’s coronavirus recovery strategy – has launched across England. Guidance states that those who have been in close contact with someone who tests positive must isolate for 14 days, even if they have no symptoms. Read details about the scheme here.

 

Government extends furlough scheme until October

The Chancellor has announced that the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will continue until the end of October. Furloughed workers across the UK will continue to receive 80% of their current salary, up to £2,500, until the end of July. From the start of August, new flexibility will be added to the scheme – furloughed workers will be able to return to work part-time with employers being asked to pay a percentage towards their salaries. More information will be released by the end of May. Read more here.

 

Government creates coronavirus business support hub

A new business support hub is now available to those seeking help during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing links to the latest information for employers, employees and the self-employed. Sections include: Funding, loans and support for businesses; Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme; Grants for the self-employed and sole traders; Employer’s responsibilities; Managing a business during coronavirus; Business closures; How you can help. Visit the support hub here.

 

Government extends the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

The UK Government has extended the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme so that all viable small businesses affected by COVID-19, and not just those unable to secure regular commercial financing, will now be eligible, should they need finance to keep operating during this difficult time. Read the full details here.

The initial Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme announcement of 23rd March can still be read here.

 

Business support

There is now a comprehensive action plan in place offering support for business. Visit the government website here for full details.

 

A letter of thanks for the construction sector

Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Alok Sharma, has written a letter of thanks all those who are working tirelessly within the construction industry during the pandemic.

 

Government plan of action

The government have created a document that sets out what the UK as a whole has done, and plans to do, to tackle the coronavirus outbreak – view it here.

 

Daily government updates

You can discover the number of cases and risk level in the UK, what to do if you have symptoms, and what the government is doing about the virus by visiting this site.

Government launches NHS Test and Trace service

The NHS Test and Trace service – a central part of the government’s coronavirus recovery strategy – has launched across England. Guidance states that those who have been in close contact with someone who tests positive must isolate for 14 days, even if they have no symptoms. Read details about the scheme here.

 

Government issues NEW guidance for safe working

Updated government guidance has been issued for people who work in or run outdoor working environments, with special relevance for construction sites. Download the revised guidance here.

 

HSE offer advice on using PPE at work

The HSE website has a section on PPE in non-healthcare businesses. While the HSE say: ‘face coverings do not need to be worn in the workplace but employers should support their workers if they choose to wear one’, it is worth clicking through to the government links for specific advice. Visit the HSE webpage here.

 

Construction workers to be eligible for coronavirus testing

The UK government has announced that millions more people are to be eligible for coronavirus tests, including construction workers. This is a welcome step to help safeguard site workers, but at this stage tests are intended only for those showing symptoms of the coronavirus. Test expansion has been made possible by the roll-out of home-testing kits and mobile units staffed by the armed forces. Construction workers can book a test on the government’s test-booking website.

 

Temporary changes to SMAS application process during COVID-19

The SMAS Worksafe application process has been temporarily changed to enable a pragmatic and proportionate approach to all desktop assessments for suppliers who may be struggling with the impact of COVID-19. Companies will be given additional short-term support where they cannot access pertinent information (due to furloughs and/or site/office closures) but wish to keep important certification in place during this period. For full details and a short video of the revised process visit this webpage.

 

Coronavirus and safe working: A joint statement between HSE, the TUC and the CBI

Contractors, employees and employers alike have been expressing their concern about recent guidance on safe working. A wide range of questions have been asked, to which no definitive set of answers has been forthcoming. In light of this confusion and frustration, the Health and Safety Executive, the TUC and the CBI have issued a joint statement intended to clarify the position. Read their statement here.

 

Sector-specific guidance on social distancing in the workplace

Public Health England (PHE) have issued sector-specific guidance on social distancing in the workplace. The view is that construction work can continue if done in accordance with the social distancing guidelines wherever possible. The importance of continued hand washing, good ventilation and a considered approach to enclosed machinery are all mentioned. It is worth reading the section titled ‘Use of private vehicles and car pooling’ if you share a journey to and from work. Read the dedicated construction section here.

 

Two-metre rule now applies to workers in Wales

Every business in Wales must take all reasonable measures to ensure the 2-metre rule is maintained between people on their premises whenever work is being carried out. The rule applies to any workplace, including homes, where work and repairs are being undertaken, and also to outdoor spaces. Read the full guidance here.

 

Site operating procedures

The Construction Leadership Council has issued revised guidance to sites operating during the pandemic so that managers can ensure they are protecting their workforce and minimising the risk of spread of infection, in line with the government’s social distancing recommendations. Read the guidelines here.

 

Respirator guidance

Tight-fitting respirators (such as disposable FFP3 masks and reusable half masks) rely on having a good seal with the wearer’s face. A face fit test should be carried out to ensure the respiratory protective equipment (RPE) can protect the wearer. Read guidance from the Health and Safety Executive here.

 

Simple steps to help protect the health and safety of staff:

  • Adhere to the government’s guidance on social distancing
  • Keep everyone updated on actions being taken to reduce risks of exposure in the workplace
  • Ensure everyone’s contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date
  • Ensure managers know how to spot symptoms of coronavirus and are clear on the actions they need to take
  • Ensure operatives are wearing gloves when handling materials and equipment
  • Ensure there are places to wash hands with hot water and soap
  • Encourage everyone to wash their hands regularly
  • Schedule welfare breaks to reduce the number of people congregating in canteens and breakout areas
  • Avoid using shared pens when signing in and out of site
  • Wash or sanitise hands after using biometric sign-ins
  • Provide hand sanitiser and tissues

Coronavirus sick pay scheme opens for applications

Small businesses and employers across the UK who have paid statutory sick pay to staff taking coronavirus-related leave will now be able to claim back the money. The online service is being run by HMRC, and after making an application employers will receive the money within six working days. Read more and click through to the online form here.

 

HMRC to deliver support webinars

HMRC are delivering a programme of webinars on measures to support employers, employees and the self-employed through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19. Watch them here.

Questions about insurance

With coronavirus causing global concern, the Association of British Insurers have produced a guide to some of the most commonly asked questions regarding insurance at this time. View their article here.

Our partners at Birketts LLP Construction Team have written this article for scaffolding companies regarding coronavirus site closures:

What is the position with being paid for the scaffolding left on site?

As every day passes during the current COVID-19 pandemic, more and more construction sites are closing. In early March, we saw works cease on major projects in London. Works at Google’s Kings Cross HQ had to be suspended for deep cleaning after workers contracted the virus. There were widespread calls for the Government to intervene in closing down sites; they chose to affirm that sites could remain open provided that guidelines were adhered to. The current situation is a mess.

Two weeks on, we are seeing smaller sites closing all over the country with no clear date for re-opening. Labour and material shortages are rife. Compliance with Government guidelines have made working on site near impossible. Notwithstanding this there are rumours that post Easter sites that have been closed will start up again, albeit with reduced productivity levels? So where does all this leave you if your scaffolding is sitting on site and you are not being paid for it.

Payment under your Sub-Contract?

Scaffolders are placed in a difficult and in some ways unique situation when a site closes: The scaffold remains on site and the statutory obligations to inspect remain in place (albeit these obligations are reduced). Being in situ, the scaffold cannot be used on another project and is therefore “stuck” until the site re-opens. In many instances scaffolders will be contractually obliged to continue to paying hire costs, but conversely many main contractors may have clauses entitling them to stop paying for the scaffold if the works are suspended. Scaffolding companies are placed in an invidious position. So what can they do?

First – Check if your main contractor can stop paying when the works are suspended?

We are receiving numerous reports from members where contractors have stopped payments during the period of site closure. Whether or not this is legally permissible depends on the terms of the contract. The default position is that scaffolders are entitled to be paid for the hire of the scaffold even if the site is closed. However many contractors will have a contractual right to suspend payments in certain circumstances. One of those circumstances may be “force majeure”. The overarching principles of force majeure is that it is an event which was unforeseeable at the formation of the contract and could not have been prevented by either party. It is arguable that COVID-19 will constitute such an event. Whether or not this entitles the main contractor to not pay for the scaffolding depends on your terms.

What if your contract is silent on such issues?

There may be situations where a site has been closed, no terms apply (or the terms that do apply are silent on suspension) and a contractor is not allowing anyone on site to remove the structure. In this scenario, the tort of conversion may apply – effectively the other party is “converting” your goods. The converter does not need to show they intend to acquire ownership of the materials and such materials do not need to be owned by you (so hired goods will apply). To be entitled to such a claim you should demand the right to remove the scaffold – if refused (which is likely) then absent anything express in your contract, you may have a right to damages for your materials being “converted”. However it will be important to ascertain the correct contractual terms to establish this, because it is an absolute defence if there is a pre-existing contract dealing with the extra hire of the scaffolding. The point is if you are refused access to remove your scaffold you may have the right to effectively recover your hire charges. If as is likely when COVID-19 relents disputes will arise between parties, having demanded return of your scaffold you have a claim for further monies that may help you resolve any final account and/or succeed in any form of dispute resolution. It is all about trying to protect your position.

Payment to the Supplier?

Even though some sites have now closed and payments are not being made to the scaffolding company, payment is still being sought from plant and materials hire companies. Many members have asked us whether they will be required to continue paying these sums. The double whammy of Brexit (which led to more members hiring rather than buying) has meant this issue is far more prevalent.

The answer, as per the above, will depend upon the supplier’s terms. There may be provisions which deal with the payment of hire charges in the event of a pandemic or a site closure. In the absence of such, you will still be required to pay the sums agreed by way of hire charges.

We would suggest that the terms are reviewed to see if there is a legal solution. The hiring of hoists may well fall under the CPA terms and have a different legal position to the hire of more standard equipment. If there is no legal route, you need to enter into dialogue with your supplier. At the moment the supplier cannot re-hire the equipment anyway, and if wants to keep your business long term, it may be willing to reduce or suspend charges.

What can we being do now?

Whilst it may sound mercenary you need to manage your cash flow. This means getting paid for work you have already done. We have heard numerous stories of scaffolding companies having applications slashed to nil or not being paid previously agreed valuations. Why should a main contractor, who is likely to have been paid by the Employer for the work in February and March, hold the money when you are due such money.

Similarly now is the time to pursue those age old debts that you keep paring to one side. This is all cash. As we repeatedly say, it is the one that shouts loudest who gets paid. For previously unpaid certified sums, the Adjudication process remains alive and kicking (in fact even more so now) and your contractor has no defence to non-payment of previously certified sums.

We are here to help you protect the business you have spent so many years building up.

If you have any queries, do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of the Birketts Construction Team by calling 01473 406388 or email: scaffolding@birketts.co.uk

 

An outline of legal issues

With the list of everyday activities on ‘lock down’ due to the pandemic growing by the day, the progress on construction projects will be disrupted. Read this article from our construction law partners at Birketts LLP.

For contractual guidance in Scotland download guidance here.

NHS every mind matters

10 tips to help you take care of your mental health and wellbeing during this time of uncertainty.

 

Mind

Coronavirus and your wellbeing – information to help you cope with anxiety.

 

Mental Health Foundation

Look after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak – this article may help.

 

Mates In Mind

Employers and employees alike should find benefit in the Managing Mental Health Guide for organisations, which provides a remote working checklist, homeworking mental health tips, access to a community hub and online training.

Coronavirus advice for businesses in Northern Ireland

Invest Northern Ireland has set up a webpage of links that NI businesses should find useful during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Find the answers to your questions here.

NI Direct Government Services have also collated useful information, featuring topics such as financial support, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the Business Interruption Loan Scheme, HMRC tax helpline and emergency volunteering leave. Visit the webpage here.

Scottish construction moves to Phase 1 of lockdown

The First Minister has announced that Scotland can now move to Phase 1 of easing the COVID-19 lockdown, with special implications for the construction sector. Read the full details here.

 

Cashflow dries up for nearly 80% of Scottish construction firms

Responses to a major survey by the Construction Industry Coronavirus (CICV) Forum has generated some stark results on the degree to which construction companies in Scotland have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 377 companies across Scotland responded: Just under 80% of respondents (262 firms) said cashflow had stopped; Just under 68% of respondents (231 firms) have furloughed staff; 36% of firms are now closed, while 54% are carrying out emergency work only. At least 55% of firms have overdue invoices sent to clients in both public and private sectors. Read more, including quotes from industry leaders, and see the full survey here.

 

Coronavirus advice for businesses in Scotland

The Scottish Government has set up a webpage of links that Scottish businesses should find useful during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Find the answers to your questions here.

 

Non-essential construction works to cease in Scotland

Work on construction sites in Scotland, unless it is for essential projects, should stop immediately, as confirmed in new guidance for the construction industry from the Scottish Government. Essential projects include those on: facilities to be used directly in COVID-19 related activities; facilities which will be used to accommodate key workers; essential public services; repair and maintenance of critical infrastructure. Read the full details here.

 

The Construction Industry Coronavirus (CICV) Forum

The Construction Industry Coronavirus (CICV) Forum is a collective of trade and professional bodies gathering intelligence, sharing advice and speaking directly with government on issues affecting members in the current crisis. The forum members have produced guidance to offer some form of clarity to the industry as we all work in the most unusual of times.

Every business must make their own judgements on the work they will do, but they should understand the advice which the Scottish Government has issued over the steps to be taken to minimise the spread of Coronavirus. The advice is subject to change without notice depending on decisions taken by the Scottish or UK Governments and updated information will be issued as required. Download the guidance here.

New support for apprentices and employers during Covid-19

These are difficult times for employers, apprentices and providers of apprenticeship training and assessment. As a result, the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) is implementing new measures immediately to make it easier for apprenticeships to continue and complete in a different way if they need to, or to break and resume an apprenticeship later when that becomes possible. A detailed document has been uploaded here and all interested parties should read this alongside the government’s Covid-19 guidance and support for businesses.

 

Construction Industry Scaffolders Record Scheme calls for leniency on recently expired cards

The closure of Construction Industry Scaffolders Record Scheme (CISRS) training providers and the suspension of HS&E tests due to the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that operatives working on sites are currently unable to renew their cards. CISRS are therefore calling on all employers and site managers to use discretion towards workers whose cards have expired since 1st February 2020. 

CISRS have been issuing letters confirming an individual’s qualifications and asking for them to be allowed to work – but if the industry could adopt a universal position while the situation unfolds the need to keep sending letters could be avoided. Read more here.

This update should be viewed in conjunction with the CISRS update previously published here.

 

Education and Skills Funding Agency

Government have issued guidance for apprentices, employers, training providers and assessment organisations, outlining the changes that the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) is making to the apprenticeship programme during the pandemic. View it here.

Temporary relaxation of the enforcement of the drivers’ hours rules

In response to unprecedented pressures on local and national supply chains, the Department for Transport and Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency have announced a temporary relaxation of the EU and GB drivers’ hours rules for drivers carrying goods by road. 

The standard drivers’ hours rules remain important safety-related rules, so these temporary relaxations should only be used where absolutely necessary. Operators should, wherever possible, attempt to recruit additional drivers from other sectors who are out of work or facing being furloughed to help support the transport of vital goods such as medicines, health, fuel and food. Read the full temporary guidance here.

Welsh Government releases additional £100 million into Economic Resilience Fund

Due to massive demand, the Welsh Government’s Economic Resilience Fund has been boosted by the release of a further £100 million within 72 hours of launch. An unprecedented rate of grant applications – more than 6,000 within 24 hours of the original launch – has revealed the scale of the challenges facing Welsh businesses. Grants of up to £10,000 are available for micro-enterprises and SMEs can apply for up to £100,000. A light touch appraisal system has been designed to get money to businesses with the minimum of delay, supported by 120 additional Welsh Government and Business Wales staff. Read more here.

 

Support for business in Wales

In response to the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak, Welsh and UK Governments have announced a range of measures to support businesses and workers across Wales including business rate relief, business grants, support for the self employed, access to finance, and support for employees. Find out more on the Business Wales website.

 

Two-metre rule now applies to workers in Wales

Every business in Wales must take all reasonable measures to ensure the 2-metre rule is maintained between people on their premises whenever work is being carried out. The rule applies to any workplace, including homes, where work and repairs are being undertaken, and also to outdoor spaces. Read the full guidance here.