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24th March, 2020 by Simon Franklin
That is the question. Soon after Boris Johnson’s announcement that all non-essential work should stop, a tweet from the Communities and Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, caused confusion by stating that work on construction sites could continue. Clearly that raised a number of concerns regarding the welfare of workers on, and travelling to, site and resulted in calls for more clarity from construction industry leaders.
As things currently stand, the Government advice is that construction work can continue, as long as it is carried out in accordance with the Site Operating Procedures published by the Construction Leadership Council.
As well as setting out the practical measures that must be followed, (and if compliance is not possible, sites should not remain open) the procedures also states that general health and safety should not be compromised, so if an activity cannot be carried out in accordance with the CDM regulations and other health and safety requirements, then it should not be undertaken.
The response from contractors has so far been mixed. Some have paused works in order to review how the workforce safely travel to site and how they can comply with the Site Operating Procedures, with a view of re-commencing works. Whereas others have closed all sites until further notice.
The self-employed status of many in the construction industry was also a significant factor in a number of decisions to keep sites open. However, following the Chancellor's announcement that they will now be offered the same level of income support as employees, we may see a number of contractors, and especially sub-contractors, stopping work.
If you require any specific advice in relation to any of the points raised or any other concerns you have arising from the impact of COVID-19, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our expert construction team.
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