How Does Construction Emerge from the Pandemic?
A number of proactive steps have been taken to help the industry emerge from the pandemic.
- The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has said it will allow firms to work together to support the fight against coronavirus, providing any coordination between competing businesses was, “undertaken solely to address concerns arising from the current crisis and not go further or last longer than what is necessary”. The CMA warned that it would not tolerate conduct which opportunistically seeks to exploit the crisis and would take enforcement action to prevent consumer detriment, but relaxing its stance could help support the supply chain.
- The trade body Build UK confirmed they are in talks with the Local Government Association to extend permitted site opening hours to help make up for lost time as a result of site closures. Longer working hours would allow contractors to improve safety by reducing the number of sub-contractors onsite at any one time. It also staggers canteens and sign-in books.
- CLC’s SOP have clarified that tasks which require workers to be closer than 2m should last no longer than 15 minutes “where possible” and recommends additional supervision. The guidance means that a greater number of tasks can be performed safely on site.
- Unprecedented Government financial support, including grants loans and tax relief to help businesses maintain cash flow.
- The Construction Leadership Council task force is looking into alternatives to invoking contractual clauses which are likely to be detrimental to the supply chain.
- Cabinet Office published supplementary guidance notes for construction contracts to support contracting authorities in implementing PPN 02/20 - supplier relief due to Covid-19. To be eligible for relief, suppliers must operate on an ‘open book’ basis, continue to pay their employees and supply chains promptly and warrant that they will not be in breach of any financial covenants by accepting the relief. Public sector clients can provide relief such as accelerated payment of invoices, more regular payments, advance/pre-payment(s) or payment on order. Authorities can also consider early release of retentions.
- Companies House has temporarily paused the strike-off process to give companies affected by coronavirus the time they need to update their records and help them avoid being struck off the register. This follows the previously announced three month extension to file accounts with Companies House.
- CLC’s encouragement of collaborative working to avoid costly disputes which may result in insolvencies.
- Contractors have refocused on off-site productivity and design to keep projects on track. Modern Methods of Construction and innovation will play more part in maintaining productivity whilst social distancing continues, these could then become the new normal.