Site office or home office: what does “construction” mean under Covid-19 guidance?

Written on 1 Oct 2020

In our previous insight, we commented on the government's direction for people to work from home where possible, and what it means for the construction industry, as a key public service. The question is, what does 'construction' actually mean, and depending on your line of work, how should you be adopting to the guidelines? For example, does construction cover facilities management, refurbishment work, operation and maintenance work, or is it just for people working on outdoor sites?

The government's official guidance bands construction with "other outdoor activity", indicating that the guidance is focussed on "build" rather than other construction-related activities. Yet many construction activities will span both indoor and outdoor working. For example, what if you operate a site and have employees in the site office rather than just working outdoors, or what if employees are sometimes on site and sometimes in the office (for example, the typical QS role)?

The answer is that at the present time, office workers who can work effectively from home should do so (this is guidance only and employers should make an assessment as to whether employees can work effectively from home). If you cannot do your job effectively from home, then you should go to your place of work. It appears, therefore, in the QS scenario that tasks that can be done in an office should be done at home (if that's possible). Tasks that require attendance on site may be done on site, but taking into account the guidelines issued by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC" and the Site Operating Procedures (which we discuss in our Covid-19 Project Toolkit).

Bodies such as the CLC and Build UK, which work between the industry and government, have issued further guidance, which should be considered. Recently for example, the CLC updated its statement on the use of face coverings, saying that face coverings are recommended on site and in workplaces (including welfare and changing facilities, offices and meeting rooms) where in an enclosed space, where social distancing isn't possible and where people come into contact with others they do not normally meet.

The CLC also issued guidance when the NHS COVID-19 track and trace app launched on 24 September 2020, urging the industry to ensure QR codes are displayed prominently on sites and in workplaces and for employees to download the app and use it regularly on a daily basis.

Now is more important than ever to keep a sharp eye on the rules and guidelines and act accordingly, whilst also adhering to your contractual provisions.