COVID-19

Guidance & Support from CONSTRUCT

The impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) can be seen across the country, and particularly on the construction industry as construction has been identified as an example of work that is expected to continue during the pandemic. In order to support our members through this challenging, unprecedented period, we have created a page where you can access all of the latest information from Government, training bodies, card schemes and more to keep your business up-to-date.

CONSTRUCT has written to the Card Schemes, Awarding Organisations and CITB to ensure members’ workforce can continue to access site where cards have expired, and complete training and qualifications.

Government has been inundated with letters from industry bodies both from construction and the wider economy. They are therefore only working with and responding to wider industry bodies which include the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) in which Build UK is a leading member. As CONSTRUCT is a member of Build UK, we are feeding in our industry’s issues and demands. Build UK and CLC have thus far taken on-board all of our feedback which has fed into the wider industry response to Government.

Training, Skills and Education Lobbying

CONSTRUCT has requested for flexible measures to be enforced during this difficult and uncertain time, including grace periods of 6-12 months for expiring cards to be accepted on site and deadlines for renewal. CONSTRUCT also requested the HS&E Test to be administered remotely and CITB has now introduced an app for employers to run their own in-house testing.

These list only a few of the requests regarding training & skills issues – find out more about what CONSTRUCT is doing to support the industry by reading our full press release here.

You can also read the letters issued by CONSTRUCT below:

Thanks to CONSTRUCT’s lobbying efforts, CSCS and affiliated card schemes have put in a range of measures to help industry through the pandemic. More flexibility has been introduced for the main card schemes CONSTRUCT’s members use such as CSCS, CCDO, CPCS and NPORS.

You can view an overview of all the changes CSCS and the 27 affiliated schemes have put in place, with links to each scheme’s detailed guidance.

Asks of Government & the Supply Chain

Through Build UK & the CLC, we have lobbied government and the supply chain on the following issues:

  • Pressuring Clients and Primary Contractors to pay their invoices promptly, on time, and release retentions, to keep our members’ cash flow as healthy as possible. This should be backed by Government.
  • Direct all Government bodies to release all retention monies.
  • Pressuring Primary Contractors to strictly adhere to the Site Operating Procedures to ensure that our members’ workers are as safe as possible during this period.
  • Asking Government to publicly knowledge that construction is being asked to continue to operate. Many workers are experiencing harassment on public transport or being stopped by police. The Construction Minister has now issued this letter.
  • Suspend PAYE and CIS tax due to HMRC in April and May for construction and consultancy firms and workers with no financial penalty.
  • Defer/cancel Apprenticeship Levy payments for the duration of the crisis and extend expiry of Apprenticeship Levy Credits.
  • Support the directors of micro-businesses, who currently fall between the support provided by the Job Retention Scheme and assistance for the self-employed.
  • Seek the issuing of government guidance to local authorities that would allow for welfare facilities to be expanded outside of a site’s footprint, particularly in cities thereby allowing more people to work on a site.
  • A coordinated test, trace and isolate strategy with construction sites getting access to tests that can be administered on CONSTRUCT members’ sites
  • Clearer communications from Primary Contractors to their sub-contractors (i.e. CONSTRUCT members and other trade on their sites) about the measures they have brought in to meet the Site Operating Procedures, and methods to ensure compliance. These actions are aimed at giving the workforce and our members the peace of mind that sites are safe to work on. You can read our email on this matter here.

If you’re facing other issues, please contact us.

Government Working Safely Guidance

The government published detailed guidance on 11 May 2020, on working safely during COVID-19. This includes specific guidance for the construction industry.

The government has also published it’s Recovery Strategy.

Site Operating Procedures

Every construction site must comply with the Site Operating Procedures developed by Build UK and the Construction Leadership Council (CLC). The latest updates are now in line with the government’s guidance.

If you are Tier 2 and the PC is not complying with SOPs, use these guidelines to pressure PCs to make the necessary adjustments to their sites, and report it to CONSTRUCT. We will report any contravention of the procedures with Build UK/CLC. You can also report it via the Health & Safety Executive (HSE). Should you act as the PC on any site, please ensure you strictly adhere to these procedures.

Public Health England has recently published new guidance on Social distancing in the workplace during coronavirus (COVID-19), which includes specific guidance in relation to Construction.

Checklists for Implementing SOPs

CITB has produced a range of checklists to help employers implement the Site Operating Procedures in practice:

Extended Working Hours on Sites

Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick has published a Written Ministerial Statement making it clear that for the next 12 months local planning authorities in England should not refuse requests to extend working hours on construction sites up to 9:00pm, Monday to Saturday, without very compelling reasons. In some cases, such as in areas without residential properties, 24-hour working may be justified.

Requests should be made to the local planning authority which should aim to issue a decision within 10 working days. Short term or modest increases to working hours may be agreed informally, whereas longer term or more significant changes will require a formal application in the usual way and the Government has published FAQs with further information.

HSE Plant Inspection

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has confirmed that plant and equipment inspections should continue during the coronavirus pandemic, whilst recognising that there is reduced capacity for them to be undertaken due to a lack of available personnel and restricted access to site. If you are continuing to use equipment outside of its inspection period, you still have a duty of care and must document actions taken to make the equipment safe to use.

First Aid Cover in the Workplace

The HSE has also confirmed temporary changes for first aid cover in the workplace during coronavirus:

  • Anyone with a first aid certificate that expires on or after 16 March 2020 and is unable to access re-qualification training may qualify for a 3-month extension. This applies to First Aid at Work (FAW), Emergency First Aid at Work (EFAW), Offshore Medic (OM) and Offshore First Aid (OFA).
  • If first aid training is interrupted and the qualification cannot be completed within the usual timeframe, training can re-start at a later date as long as a full recap of training already delivered is undertaken and candidates show the knowledge and competencies required.

Performing CPR on Adult

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, St John Ambulance has updated its guidance for performing CPR on an unresponsive adult. The guidance provides step by step actions of what you need to do if you find someone collapsed and unresponsive.

CLC Contractual Best Practice Guidance

The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has issued best practice guidance for contracts during COVID-19. The guidance provide examples of the types of issues that are likely to arise, together with practical advice on how to resolve them in a constructive manner. They are supported by government.

Wedlake Bell Contractual Guidance

There is now specific guidance available for CONSTRUCT members to access on the contractual issues that are arising because of COVID-19. This guidance has been commissioned by Build UK and produced by Wedlake Bell, and covers force majeure and frustration, variations, pandemic clauses and more. Remember that CONSTRUCT members can also contact enquiries@construct.org.uk for details of how to access the Wedlake Bell helpline for specific contractual issue advice as part of your CONSTRUCT membership.

HR & Employment Support

Members joined a Webinar with Citation, which you can now download and watch here. You can also download the slides separately here.

If you skip forward to 9mins in for the start of the HR/Employment section, you will find some useful guidance on temporary lay-offs, furloughing, and pay & sickness when employees are self-isolating. There is also a Q+A section where further questions were addressed up until 43mins in.

A Health & Safety presentation then follows, which I do not think is worth listening to, as it is too generic. Please refer to the Site Operating Procedures (SOPs) for specific construction-related health & safety guidance. There is also a letter of authorisation from the Construction Minister that you may wish to distribute to your workers, which outlines that construction workers can continue to go to work, which may be useful for any of your team that have been stopped by police.

There are some additional Q+As which are useful from 1h6m to 1h30m and from 1h30m to 1h42m, which covers Employment/HR and some Health & Safety issues.

From 1h30m Citation cover the Good Work Plan – there are significant changes to employment law from 6 April 2020, which will require members to make some changes to the way some workers are engaged, including contractually.

Remember, CONSTRUCT members can access free advice with Citation via the helpine – please contact us for details of how to access.

Employer Liability Insurance

Members may be concerned about their liability should one of your employees contract COVID-19 while working. Our Insurance Partners, Square Mile Broking, have helped us produce this guidance note on the subject.

If you require impartial advice on employers’ liability or indeed any insurances during this time, you can access free advice via the member helpline – please contact us for details of how to access.

Back to Business Hub

Citation has created a Back to Business hub containing downloadable guides, checklists and the latest guidance to help your prepare for re-opening business.

Summary of Financial Support

The Government has announced a number of financial support mechanisms for business, including tax payment deferrals, loans for business interruption, and wage support for PAYE staff.

Our Partners at Square Mile Broking, have also provided a more detailed summary on financial guidance available to businesses.

Furloughed Worker Payments

The Government has updated its published guidance on how to access funds for furloughed employees. The cut off date has been amended to 19 March 2020, previously 28 February 2020. If you have terminated employment to employees that started between 1 March and 19 March, you can reemploy them and place them on furlough.

The Chancellor has announced that the scheme will be extended until the end of October 2020, avoiding a ‘cliff edge’ and getting people back to work in a measured way. From the start of August, flexibility will be introduced which will enable employers to bring back furloughed workers part-time and pay a percentage of their salaries.

The portal for claiming furlough payments through the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is now live. Payments can take up to six working days to be paid into your nominated accounts, so we would advise applying as soon as possible.

The Government has confirmed that furloughed workers planning to take paid parental or adoption leave will be entitled to pay based on their usual earnings, rather than the furloughed pay rate.

Check the Government’s step by step guide to submitting claims for furloughed employees and, to avoid any delays with your submission, make sure you have the following to hand before you start.

Government has issued guidance on reintroducing furloughed staff to the workforce, or making them redundant during or after furlough.

Self Employee Wage Support 

The Government has announced similar provisions for the self-employed, which will help much of the construction workforce.  Those with operating profits of under £50,000 will be eligible for 80% payments to a max of £7,500 per month. This amount you get will be based on your tax returns for the last 3 years. There will be provisions for those with less than 3 years of returns, but full guidance is still to be published. Government has now brought forward the start date for the Self Employment Income Support Scheme and the claims service is now open. To check if you are eligible, you can use the online checker tool which can also tell you when to submit your claim.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)

The standard CBILS is open to SMEs for financial support of up to £5 million, administered by the Banks, and partially guaranteed by Government. This is subject to credit checks and there have been reports of difficulty getting funds, or very high interests or guarantees against homes required. If you are experiencing these difficulties, please contact CONSTRUCT.

For larger businesses, the newly launched Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) provides businesses with a turnover of more than £45 million access to loans. Companies in this bracket will be able to apply for up to £25 million in finance, while up to £50 million is available for businesses with a turnover of more than £250 million. Previously businesses with a turnover of more than £500 million were not eligible. The scheme was launched on Monday 20 April 2020.

From 26 May 2020, large businesses will be able to borrow up to £200 million through the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS), after the Government increased the maximum loan size from £50 million. Companies borrowing more than £50 million will be subject to restrictions on dividend payments, senior pay and share buy‐backs during the period of the loan, including a ban on dividend payments and cash bonuses, except where they were previously agreed.

Bounce Back Loan Scheme

The Chancellor has launched a new 100% Government-backed Bounce Back Loan Scheme for small businesses which will open for applications on Monday 4 May:

• Small businesses will be able to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000 from an accredited lender and access the cash within days
• The Government will pay any fees and interest for the first 12 months, as well as providing lenders with a 100% guarantee for the loan
• No repayments will be due during the first 12 months
• Loans can be applied for online using a short and simple form.

The new scheme will run alongside the existing Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, and the Government is taking additional steps to ensure lenders can process applications quickly, including changing the viability tests so that all a bank needs to assess is whether a business was viable pre-coronavirus.

Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme

The Government has announced that the online service for the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme will be launched next Tuesday 26 May 2020. This will allow small and medium‐sized employers, with fewer than 250 employees, to apply to HMRC to recover the costs of paying coronavirus‐related SSP to current or former employees for up to two weeks since 13 March 2020. To prepare to submit a claim, employers should make sure they have up to date records of all SSP payments that they wish to include.

Cash Flow Management

During this period, BAU short-term cash flow processes may no longer be adequate, so it is therefore vital for companies to review their processes to reduce risk of liquidation. Our Partners at Square Mile Broking, have provided guidance on how to manage your business’ cash flow. This guidance will take you through the COVID-19 accelerated and enhanced cash flow process, and also provide guidance on what your company can be doing to preserve cash during this time.

Square Mile Broking provide a helpline if you would like to request independent advice. Please contact CONSTRUCT for details.

Tax Guidance

Build UK Partner, KPMG, has issued guidance on tax measures adopted by Government in response to COVID-19 relevant to the construction industry.

COVID-19 Testing for Construction Workers

The Government has announced that coronavirus (COVID-19) testing has been extended to anyone who goes into work because they cannot work from home and is showing symptoms of coronavirus. This includes construction workers, as well as people they live with who have symptoms, and there are two ways to arrange a test:

  • Self-referral – enables workers and members of their households who have symptoms to book a test directly using the online system
  • Employer referral – allows employers to refer workers for a test via a secure portal. Employers will need to obtain a login by emailing portalservicedesk@dhsc.gov.uk with their organisation name, nature of their business, region, and names and email addresses for two users. Contractors may find it more efficient for clients already registered for their essential workers to request the test on their behalf.

Accommodation for Construction Workers

Build UK has temporarily repurposed its Open Doors Website to help construction workers find local accommodation when working away from home. If your site requires accommodation and none is shown locally, please send Build UK the site postcode or location as they can add providers where there is demand.

Crisis Support Helpline 

In this current crisis, it is vital that the your staff are aware that they can access the Lighthouse Club’s 24/7 Construction Industry Helpline for support. There is also financial support for those construction industry workers that are facing particular hardship.

Like many charities, the pandemic will also impact Lighthouse Club’s resources, so if you would like to give a donation or become a company supporter, you can do so here.

Levy Payment Holiday

CONSTRUCT lobbied CITB for a levy payment holiday and deferral of payments, which has achieved some result. Employers will not need to make any levy payments until August (normally May). The amount for the full year will, however, still be payable – i.e. there is no discount, just a delay in employers’ requirement to pay. The initial 3 month deferral will be after reviewed depending on the pandemic situation. Full details from the CITB communication is attached, and you can watch a video from CITB CEO, Sarah Beale here.

Funding Claim Deadline Suspended

The 20-week deadline for submitting funding claims as been suspended, giving you more time to submit claims. CITB are also trying to speed up grant payments – make sure you log into your CITB portal to authorise any payments.

Apprenticeship Grants Advance – 2nd and 3rd Year Apprentices

To help with apprentice retention, there are also advance grant payments available for second and third year apprentice attendance grants. This could mean up to £2,500 worth of grant paid in advance – you must apply here.

Advanced Apprenticeship Grants

CITB have extended the Advanced Grant support to Higher Level Apprenticeships. Advanced Grant is now available for apprentices in their final year of a higher level apprenticeship. This will support employers with apprentices who are close to achieving their higher apprenticeship – full details can be found here.

ATO Self-Assessment Extension

CITB has extended the time ATOs have to deliver “assured” courses (where CITB has specifically defined how training is delivered).

In normal circumstances ATOs would need to complete a self-assessment in 30 days, following a course becoming standardised. The extension is this will allow ATOs with furloughed staff to complete self-assessments later and continue to provide standardised training to industry. There is more information from CITB on their website here.

CITB COVID-19 Support Updates

CITB updates it’s COVID-19 page regularly here.

CONSTRUCT lobbied CSCS/CPCS/NPORS (click links to read the letters sent, or you can read our Press Release overview here), to provide a coordinated and flexible response to card expiry.

CSCS and Build UK have put together an overview of all the changes CSCS and the 27 affiliated schemes have put in place, with links to each scheme’s detailed guidance.

CSCS

Our Asks from CSCS

CSCS’ Response, highlighted the extended grace period for card renewals from 6 to 12 months, and they have removed the requirements.

NPORS

Our Asks from NPORS

NPORS’ response highlighted that they are extending operator cards by 6 months and provided their latest guidance.

Our consultation with NPORS has also led to the confirmation of the 6 month registration extension which applies to both the NPORS traditional cards and the NPORS/CSCS cards.

CPCS

Our Asks of CPCS

CPCS is still to respond. If you have any questions on the card schemes, please contact us. However, CPCS have set up a Temporary COVID-19 Card which is valid for 12 months and can be issued where operatives cannot sit the HS&E Test. It costs £15 and can be applied for online.

HS&E Test

CITB has launched a ‘lite’ version of the test that employers can do internally – it is available on iOS and a PC version, with the Android version to be launched shortly.

CITB have developed the following temporary LITE testing products as well as some suggested test delivery guidelines.

Please note: These LITE tests cannot be used to apply for a CSCS or CPCS card. Permission to allow the employee on site is at the discretion of the employer. This is an interim measure only. The candidate must pass a HS&E test in a Test Centre once temporary restrictions on Test Centres have been lifted. 

Following the Government’s announcement on 10 May, CITB will begin the process of re-opening Health, Safety and Environment test centres in England.

Most Pearson centres in England are open as of Monday 18 May. Independent test centres will also be phased in once they have confirmed they are implementing social distancing measures. Find out more on CITB’s website.

A range of courses are available through remote learning including delivery of the Site Safety Plus Health and Safety Awareness course, SMSTS and SSSTS refresher courses. You can find more from your local centre via the SSP course locator.

We have sort flexibility from CITB and the Card schemes on the Temporary Works expiries too.

Apprenticeship Assessments 

The Institute of Apprenticeships has produced guidance on apprentices that are effected by delays including for End Point Assessments (EPA) and to avoid ‘hardship’, putting in place professional ‘discretion’ to help support apprentices through to completions.

Apprentices on furlough can still complete EPAs, if provisions by the EPA Organisation have been put in place adapting for their assessments in light of the COVID-19 public health requirements.

You can find these details and the full FAQs here.

Government Support for Apprentices

The Education & Skills Funding Agency has published guidance for employers, training providers and apprentices covering:

  • confirming flexibilities to allow furloughed apprentices to continue their training and to take their end-point assessment, and to allow existing furloughed employees to start a new apprenticeship, as long as it does not provide services to or generate revenue for their employer
  • encouraging training providers to deliver training to apprentices remotely, and via e-learning, as far as is practicable
  • allowing the modification of end-point assessment arrangements, including remote assessments wherever practicable and possible – this is in order to support employers, providers and end-point assessment organisation (EPAOs) to maintain progress and achievement for apprentices
  • clarifying that apprentices ready for assessment, but who cannot be assessed due to COVID-19 issues, can have their end-point assessment rescheduled
  • apprentices whose gateway is delayed can have an extension to the assessment time frame
  • enabling employers and training providers to report and initiate a break in learning, where the interruption to learning due to COVID-19 is greater than 4 weeks
  • clarification on how to record breaks in learning in March so that funding is not unnecessarily disrupted
  • confirming that, where apprentices are made redundant, it is our ambition to find them alternative employment and continue their apprenticeship as quickly as possible and within 12 weeks
  • confirming that where apprentices are made redundant and are ready to go through gateway, that providers and EPAOs are able to make the necessary assessment arrangements to support these apprentices

You can view the full guidance here

Apprenticeship Grants

CITB Grants have been hanged to aid employers keeping on apprentices during the pandemic. Please refer to the CITB Support Tab for more detail.

Build UK is also issuing daily advice for construction industry as a whole. We work closely with them to ensure that our advice is in line with the wider sector, and that the concrete structures industry is heard and represented at the highest level of government, and the wider supply chain.

You can view their guidance here.