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The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on all of our lives. We are here to support you and your business during this difficult and uncertain time.
Since the start of the outbreak, the FMB has prioritised ensuring our members have the right information to keep safe and to keep their business on track. We know small builders were affected hard by the first lockdown, with 96% of FMB members having to stop some or all of their work.
Through our coronavirus hub we have shared tailored guidance, resources such as contracts, reminders of our member helplines and other support services, as well as the latest official advice where you live. We have also made sure that governments across the UK have heard the call of small builders. Working collaboratively across the construction industry we have made the case for financial support for small businesses, for sites to remain open safely, for a focus on the repair, maintenance and improvement sector, and an assurance that we will build back better and greener.
While coronavirus is still very much with us, we are also playing a leading role in efforts to shape the recovery so that it works for Master Builders.
The FMB sits on the leading construction industry bodies that are working with the governments in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
This guidance sets out advice to members and their clients about what steps they may want to think about when starting or restarting a building project during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. The guidance is based on three principles:
As always, all activity should be underpinned by open communication and collaboration. This guidance is aimed at members working in the domestic sector and is a framework to help businesses decide whether work can be carried out safely on their specific site, and what steps they might consider putting in place as they return. You should check official sources of information before making any decisions about how to proceed, and you should keep the situation under review. There are links to that advice throughout this document.
FMB members also have access to our specialist advisors. Please log in to the members area to access helpline numbers or call 0330 333 7777 for further information.
Despite the recent reintroduction of restrictions across the UK, governments in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have confirmed that construction works can continue as long as it is managed in a COVID-secure way and both the worker and household members are well and have no symptoms of coronavirus.. However, there are exceptions in Scotland. Please read on for further advice and guidance for each of the nations.
From 5 January 2021 people in England will have to stay at home and only go out for essential reasons. However, in all areas the guidance is clear that construction and work inside people’s homes can continue, so long as this is done in a COVID-secure way. Builders merchants will also remain open. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (the ‘furlough’ scheme) will remain open during this time, and there will be ongoing support for the self-employed. See the links below for further information on the continuation on building work during the pandemic and guidance on working safely in people's homes:
On 26 December 2020 additional restrictions were introduced for people in Northern Ireland. However, at present, there are no imposed restrictions on undertaking building work within people’s homes. See the links below for further guidance:
From 5 January 2021, mainland Scotland moved from Level 4 to a temporary lockdown. The lockdown measures will now stay in place across mainland Scotland and some island communities, until at least the middle of February. The Scottish Government will next conduct a wider review on 2 February.
Construction activity is permitted to continue across Scotland. However in mainland Scotland, tradespeople should only go into a house to carry out or deliver essential work or services. On Wednesday 13 January the First Minister confirmed that this current guidance will become law from Saturday 16 January.
Construction Scotland has guidance here for the construction sector on safe working during the Covid-19 pandemic. This includes updated guidance on introducing stricter management of toolbox talks and briefings to avoid close contact in indoor locations, minimising car sharing, increased home working, increased ventilation and the greater use of face coverings and stricter cleaning.
We will update members as and when relevant guidance from the Scottish Government changes.
On 28 December 2020 the whole of Wales moved into Level 4 - see Business closures: alert level 4. This will be reviewed in three weeks time at which point some areas may move down the Levels.
Building work will be allowed to continue as long as it is managed in a safe way and both the worker and household members are well and have no symptoms of coronavirus. However, the Welsh Government are recommending that people consider whether the work can be safely deferred until they are no longer in Level 4. See the links below for further guidance on working safely in people's homes:
As you determine how to work during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, these steps are designed to help guide your considerations and ensure you keep you and your clients safe. Each business will need to decide on the specific actions it needs to take, appropriate to your business, your workforce and the particular site you are working on, in order to work safely. The FMB has taken account of official advice in preparing this guidance note.
In applying this guidance employers should be mindful of the need to treat everyone in their workforce equally. It is breaking the law to discriminate, directly or indirectly, against anyone because of a protected characteristic such as age, sex or disability. Employers should therefore consider whether they need to put in place any particular measures or adjustments to take account of their duties under the equalities legislation.
Before you start or restart work you will need to:
Liaise with your suppliers and workers to check whether they are able to meet your requirements. The FMB contracts are based on the parties working together on a project, and that includes finding solutions to this unexpected and unpredictable situation. You will need to cooperate with your clients, staff, suppliers and subcontractors.
Agree any changes to your FMB contract on the works period or completion date, price for the works, quality of materials due to limited supplies, working hours or methods to reflect the requirements above and remobilisation costs. These should be recorded in writing and signed by both parties using the FMB Change of Works Form (available on the Contracts page in the Members’ Area). Other forms of contract will have similar mechanisms for dealing with changes.
Ensure your client understands the uncertain nature of works and that you have recorded any assumptions that are reflected in your revised date, price, quality, or other statements. FMB members can contact the FMB Dispute Resolution Team for advice if they are unable to reach agreement with their client.
Communicate with your client what you will both do in the event that future restrictions are placed on the works or your site that may prevent works being carried out or cause further changes to the time, cost or quality you have listed in your changes.
Continue to communicate clearly, openly and regularly as the situation is still changing. You should inform your clients of any unforeseen problems or delays as early as possible and discuss how these affect your clients’ aims for the project. You should do this remotely in order to maintain social distancing.
You should have notified your insurer that you were stopping work, and you will also need to notify them that work has restarted. Specifically:
You may need to notify your bank if you have obtained funding to finance the project.
If you are going to return to work, what precautions can you take to protect yourself, your workers and clients?
Carry out a risk assessment: As the responsible contractor and employer, your risk assessment will be your starting point. It is vital that the risk involved in each job is assessed and documented, and that key considerations to do with health, safety and welfare are the primary concerns for any work you undertake. Legally, only employers with more than five employees are obliged to produce a written risk assessment, but the FMB would encourage all members to keep a written note of their assessment of the risks involved in the work. This will mean that you can more easily share your findings with others, including workers, and that you can demonstrate the steps you have taken if there are any incidents that could lead to an investigation or insurance claim in the future. No one can completely eliminate risks, but it could be very important for you to show how you have done everything reasonably practical to minimise the risks, using sensible measures and following advice and guidance.
Keep following existing legal obligations: Carrying out a COVID-19 risk assessment does not supersede any legal obligations relating to health and safety, employment, or equality law, and it is important that you continue to comply with these.
Include your workers in the process: It is important to take a collaborative approach with workers when assessing risks and proposing measures to mitigate them. Employers must engage with workers, or workers representatives in order to agree any changes in working arrangements. Your workers are able to choose their own representative, employers cannot decide who the representative will be. The aim is to have clear and consistent communications, to achieve understanding and compliance. It is good practice to have workers confirm in writing that they have received and understood information about such changes.
Resources to assist in assessing risks: To help, you can download the FMB's basic risk assessment Word template or find more comprehensive templates in our Document library (available to FMB members only).
Some actions to consider: In producing your risk assessment you should follow the commonly used hierarchy of risks:
Eliminate the risk – can the risk be eliminated, for example by not carrying out a particular task?
Reduce the risk – for example by using social distancing and good hygiene.
Isolate the risk – for example by limiting work to very small teams who stay together.
Engineered controls to reduce risk – such as physical barriers.
Administrative controls to reduce risk – such as staggered breaks or start times.
Using PPE to reduce risk, which should be the last resort, not a substitute for other measures.
Once you have completed your risk assessment, you should regularly review and update it as the situation changes.
FMB members have access to the FMB business advisory helpline for free, unlimited expert advice on a range of matters from debt recovery, human resources, tax, health and safety, legal matters and more.
Despite the recent reintroduction of restrictions in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, all four governments have confirmed that construction works can continue. However, in mainland Scotland, tradespeople should only go into a house to carry out or deliver essential work or services.
We've produced a summary of key points for homeowners if they are considering whether to start or continue with building works in their home at this time. Additional information for homeowners is available in our Building during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic guide.
Official advice is changing often, and this list is not exhaustive, so you should check official sources of information before making any decisions about how to proceed and keep the situation under review. This document offers general guidance only. FMB members can contact our advisors for help with a specific enquiry. The advisory helpline numbers are in the Members’ Area. If you require support with accessing FMB membership benefits, please call the Membership Team on 0330 333 7777, or email [email protected].
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