In Covid update

New edition of the CLC Site Operating Procedures

The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has released Site Operating Procedures Version 5 which has been updated to reflect the latest Government guidance following the easing of lockdown measures in England from Saturday 4 July.

The ‘one metre plus’ social distancing guidelines require workers to stay two metres apart, or one metre with risk mitigation where two metres is not viable, and it is expected that sites will maintain the social distancing measures in place.

Other changes to the Site Operating Procedures – Version 5 are minimal and include:

  • Updates to the ‘When to Travel to Work’ section
  • The latest peak times for public transport
  • Entry systems to be regularly cleaned rather than between each use
  • Drivers to have access to welfare facilities
  • Canteens that have been closed or offered a restricted service may now re-open.

Latest Government guidance

The Government has updated its guidance on Working safely during coronavirus (Covid-19) – Construction and other outdoor work and published further guidance on social distancing from 4 July , an FAQ page and a review of one metre +.

The updated guidance explains the introduction of ‘one metre plus’ as maintaining a social distance of two metres or one metre with risk mitigation where two metres is not viable. It lists risk mitigating actions as including:

  • further increasing the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning
  • keeping the activity time involved as short as possible
  • using screens or barriers to separate people from each other
  • using back-to-back or side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible
  • reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ (so each person works with only a few others).

The guidance on PPE and face coverings in section 6 has not been updated.

CITB to reduce Levy contributions
CITB has announced it is implementing measures to reduce levy payments for employers and delay collection in 2020. It will extend the current payment holiday until September 2020, and then give Levy-payers the option to spread their payments over up to 12 months until August 2021.

CITB will also propose to Government that that next year’s Levy is reduced by 50% and collected over six months from September 2021 to February 2022.

CITB states that taken together, these measures will mean that employers will pay 25% less across two years. An employer whose usual Levy bill is £1,200 per year will now pay £1,800 over two years.

The amount of Levy collected will drop by £166 million over the next two years. CITB has confirmed that it will focus on protecting apprenticeships and providing direct funding to employers through the Grants Scheme and Skills and Training Funds. Further information can be found in CITB’s new business plan, the Skills Stability Plan 2020‐21.

CITB Consensus process extended

The Department for Education has confirmed that CITB will not run the usual Consensus process this year.  The consensus process takes place every three years and under normal circumstances for CITB to raise a Levy it has to consult with and show support from the construction industry for the Levy Order to be passed for Parliamentary consideration.  This process would have already needed to be underway in time for completion in September, but the Government via the Department for Education is supporting an extension that will likely see the next formal consensus vote taking place in 2022.

CITB states it will instead speak to employers and industry groups to seek their views on its plans for next year. According to CITB this will allow it to focus its efforts entirely on supporting industry and will not place any more burden on employers and partners right now.

New Business and Planning Bill

A new Business and Planning Bill introduced to Parliament on 25 June covers a range of issues, including measures to boost construction. Companies will be able to request extended and flexible site working hours through a fast‐track application process that gives Local Authorities 14 calendar days to consider applications to extend working hours. If they do not make a decision within that time, the revised working hours will be deemed to have been consented to.

New Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill

The Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill received Royal Assent on 25 June, and has become an Act of Parliament. The legislation offers new flexibilities in the insolvency and company law frameworks, to help companies through this difficult economic time. The Government has developed a range of factsheets about the Bill.

Working with the Association of Business Recovery Professionals, BEIS is hosting a range of webinars on what the measures mean for business including:

Prime Minister says “Build Build Build”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has put construction at the core of his plans to boost the UK economy while outlining his “New Deal for Britain.” He made several promises of investment, declaring  “… we will build build build. Build back better, build back greener, build back faster and to do that at the pace that this moment requires.”

Promised investment includes £1.5bn this year for hospital maintenance, building, and the improvement of A&E capacity, £780m on school and college repair and upgrades in addition to the £1bn new 10-year school building programme, £100m on road repairs and£83m for maintenance of prisons and youth offender facilities. A further £900m is earmarked for a range of local growth projects in England over the course of the next two years, as well as £96m to accelerate investment in town centres and high streets through the Towns Fund this year.

New planning regulations will enable existing commercial properties, including newly vacant shops, to be converted into new homes. These will be supported by a package of measures, including a £12 billion affordable homes programme supporting up to 180,000 new affordable homes over the next eight years and a £450 million boost for the Home Builders Fund to help smaller developers and support around 7,200 new homes.

Scotland sites resuming work
An increasing number of sites in Scotland are resuming work after the Scottish Government confirmed that the industry could move to Phase 3 of the Construction Re‐Start Plan  which allows for steady state operation with physical distancing and no use of Covid-19 PPE. The Scottish Construction Industry Coronavirus Forum has released an updated version of its Site Operating Procedures clarifying that Health Protection Scotland does not recommend the wearing of face masks or undertaking temperature testing at work.

The Scottish Government has launched a £230 million Return to Work package to help stimulate Scotland’s economy following coronavirus. This includes £78 million for construction, including £40 million for regeneration projects and £20 million for roads maintenance.

Impact of Coronavirus on Construction

Build UK is working with Constructionline to measure the impact of coronavirus on the industry. It has developed an infographic based on data submitted from almost 8,000 suppliers. This highlights the biggest challenge is continuity of work and the three main things that would help suppliers are outstanding invoices to be paid (38%), a relaxation of project deadlines (28%), and shorter payment terms (24%). Some 99% of companies operating on site are adopting the Site Operating Procedures.