On 22 September 2020, the UK government announced new restrictions as a result of an increase in Covid-19 cases in the UK.
At first glance, these measures may seem to have a limited impact on the construction industry, since construction site workers were told they are exempt from the new measures to work from home where possible. The prime minister highlighted the construction industry in particular as a "key public service" that should continue. This exemption is only relevant to site workers – office-based staff should work from home wherever possible.
In practice, however, we see two key initial considerations to take into account:
- Construction site workers should remain as cautious as ever in light of the rise in cases, given that any outbreak of Covid-19 on a construction site is likely to delay and disrupt the works. A delay related to labour is likely – depending on the wording of the contract – to be a contractor risk event.
- The government warned that the new direction to work from home where possible could last a further six months. This means that the adoption of measures that construction companies have put in place in order to allow for a productive interface between home office and the site office will likely need to be more than temporary fixes.
It is unknown how long any measures will be in place, but it could mean that construction companies should be accelerating the adoption of technology (such as those we discuss here) in order to ensure that programmed work is carried out as efficiently and productively as possible.
The government has extended the restrictions to present a winding up petition from 30 September 2020 to 31 December 2020. However, as the pandemic continues, the furlough scheme ends and cash reserves get smaller the construction industry will be looking to the government to give what it acknowledges is a “key public service” the further support that it needs.