construction site

Government advice for construction sites 'anything but clear'

Despite the announcement of a nation-wide lockdown earlier this week, construction sites have been given the green light to continue work as long as social distancing measures are followed.

But is this the correct decision?

This week saw Galliard Homes, Taylor Wimpey, Barratt Developments and MCS Group, among others, close construction sites to play their part in helping safeguard employees and prevent the spread of Covid-19.

According to trade association the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), “greater clarity” is needed from the government.

“Our members want to do the right thing, but the advice coming from government is anything but clear,” said Brian Berry, chief executive at the FMB.

“…Small builders cannot work from home, but without cash grants available now, they risk seeing their livelihoods lost.”

Berry highlighted that mixed messages would spread further anxiety across the industry at a time when numerous small builders faced “immediate lost earning”.

On the other hand, the National Federation of Builders (NFB) has opted to support the government’s stance and uphold guidelines.

The trade body has signalled that work can continue, provided that the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms.

Richard Beresford, CEO at the NFB, commented: “We have written up some detailed guidance for our members, to help them apply social distancing and to make sure that a high standard of health and safety is kept at their sites.

“Many NFB members have self-employed supply chains they feel responsible for and this has been a very trying time as there is little for them to fall back on.”

Warwick-based contractor MCS Group was one of many contractors who agreed to close their sites.

"We’ve taken the decision to close down our construction sites with immediate effect,” stated Keir Edmonds, managing director at MCS Group.

“…Our view is that the only way to beat and prevent a catastrophic outbreak, like Italy and other countries have seen, is to have a shutdown period to help stop the spread of Covid-19.”

Although contractor Crest Nicholson has opted to close sales suites and show homes across all its developments, its currently sites remain open.

It has accordingly implemented new measures to ensure the wellbeing of its employees, which include additional hygiene and social distancing, but workers will still be on site.

David Rainford, property funding director at accountancy and business advisory Cowgills, said there was clearly confusion in the construction industry.

“…We have seen announcements from a number of major housebuilders that they are closing down sites and also from main contractors adopting a similar stance.

“Sadly, however, many SME developers and self-employed trades are in the difficult position of ‘no work means no income’ and the sooner the government provides clarity around income support for the self-employed the better.”

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