The UK Government is providing regular advice and updates, including:
How to protect yourself and others
Staying at home if you think you have coronavirus (self-isolating)
How everyone can help stop coronavirus spreading (social distancing)
How to protect extremely vulnerable people (shielding)
Full guidance on staying at home and away from others
Guidance for the public on mental health and wellbeing
UK Government information service on WhatsApp
Employment and financial support
Guidance for employees
Check if your employer can use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
Self-employment Income Support Scheme
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
Your rights if your hours are cut or you're laid off
What to do if you cannot pay your tax bill on time
Employers, businesses and other organisations
Coronavirus business support
What the government is doing to support businesses
Check what you need to do about Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
How to keep your employees safe
Applying for more time to file your company’s accounts
Information for those residing in the devolved nations
The Scottish Government has confirmed that it is now advising construction sites to close. It is currently developing guidance for business on how to respond, and how to confirm whether their activities are essential or non-essential. Read the advice here.
The Scottish Government Coronavirus Business Support Fund is being administered by Local Authorities. The ratepayers of businesses located in a non-domestic property that is on 17 March;
in receipt of the Small Business Bonus Scheme (SBBS);
in receipt of Rural Relief; or
eligible for SBBS but in receipt of Nursery Relief or Disabled Relief;
can apply to access a support fund and receive a one-off small business support grant of £10,000. This is only available if they were the ratepayer for a premises occupied for that business use on 17 March 2020.
A separate one-off grant of £25,000 is available to the ratepayers of businesses in the retail, hospitality, leisure sectors operating in a premises with a rateable value of £18,001 or up to £50,999. This is the rateable value as at 17 March 2020 regardless of any subsequent reduction in rateable value due to an appeal. This is only available if they were the ratepayer for a premises occupied for that business use on 17 March 2020.
Eligible ratepayers can apply for a one-off grant payment as detailed below up to 31 March 2021. Only one grant is allowed per ratepayer regardless of the number of premises held.
These grants are aimed at helping keep companies in business and keep productive capacity so that they can recover. Their intention is to protect jobs, prevent business closure and promote economic recovery.
Find out how to apply here. The deadline for applications is 31 March 2021.
Regulations on Changing Places Toilets, and more Planning Act commencements
Regulations have been laid in the Scottish Parliament to bring in to effect the new Planning requirements on Changing Places Toilets. Section 26 of the Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 introduces a requirement that planning applications for certain types of development will only be able to be approved if the development includes a toilet facility that meets the description in the Act. This is inserted as section 41B of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997.
The Town and Country Planning (Changing Places Toilets Facilities) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 amend the types of development and the description of the facility to align with the Building Standards requirements that came into force in October 2019. These regulations need to be approved by the Scottish Parliament before they come into effect.
The Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 (Commencement No. 4 and Transitional Provision) Regulations 2020 will bring the requirements, as amended by the Regulations, into force for applications submitted on or after 18 May 2020.
We have published a circular setting out the amended requirements all in one place and giving more information about Changing Places Toilets and the interaction with Building Standards.
The Commencement Regulations also bring into force on 18 May the powers under section 17 of the 2019 Act for Scottish Ministers to make regulations about short term let control areas. The commencement of section 62 and paragraph 9 of schedule 2 deal with the Parliamentary procedure for approving these regulations. We will be consulting soon on what those regulations should include, with a view to the system for designating short term let control areas coming into force by the end of this year.
Information for those residing overseas
Procurement Policy Note – Supplier relief due to COVID-19
This Procurement Policy Note (PPN) sets out information and guidance for public bodies on payment of their suppliers to ensure service continuity during and after the current coronavirus, COVID-19, outbreak. Contracting authorities must act now to ensure suppliers at risk are in position to resume normal contract delivery once the outbreak is over. To read the PPN in full, please click here.
The government has advised British citizens against all non-essential travel worldwide.
Housing and local services
School closures and education
Apprenticeship programme response
The Education and Skills Funding Agency is taking steps to ensure that, wherever possible, apprentices can continue and complete their apprenticeship and to support providers during this challenging time. New guidance has been published for apprentices, employers, training providers and assessment organisations.
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Call for businesses to help make NHS ventilators
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is seeking businesses who can support the production and supply of ventilators and ventilator components across the UK. If you think you can help please visit ventilator.herokuapp.com and register your details.
New guidance on the Regulatory status of equipment being used in UK hospitals.
The NHS has useful information about the virus, advice on how to reduce your chance of contracting it and a tool you can use if you think you may have the virus. Click here to access their resources.
Our advice to members is to AVOID holding/attending Regional meetings, CPD events, exhibitions etc. in person and to instead opt for webinars and conference calls. This social distancing will mitigate the harm caused by the virus.
Construction policies in other countries
All feedback from Government is that they want construction activity to continue where it is safe to do so in compliance with HSE guidelines.
However, it is understood that non-compliance with the HSE Public Health Guidelines could be deemed to be a breach of the Safety, Health and Welfare Act 2005 requiring provision of a safe place to work.
The Irish Union for construction workers is also in discussions with the Government to secure a committment that contracting authorities will not penalise contractors for issues pertaining to the adaptation of these essential safety guidelines.
The government have published a press release saying: "Construction and public works firms are essential to the economy by contributing to French peoples' needs in terms of housing, water, energy, waste management, transport and telecommunications."
It announced that following discussions over previous days, construction federations and the government agreed a number of principles to strengthen the continuity of activity and works. Labour protection from the virus would be ensured through adapted procedures, including the maintenance of distance between workers.
Construction federations will publish a guide of good practice, approved by the Employment and Health ministries, which will set out a number of recommendations to ensure good health conditions. For public works, public sector clients and government services (i.e. local prefects) will coordinate and prioritise the works that should be resumed or continued.
Construction (including construction of buildings) is included in the more stringent Italian shutdown announced (i.e. it has shut down).
Civil engineering work (including work on roads, railways and other public infrastructure) is exempted and allowed to continue, as are various maintenance activities such as plumbing and electrical work.
Construction is exempt from the Spanish shutdown as the competent authority believes there is low risk of contagion due to sites being in open spaces.
The royal decree prohibits certain establishments from opening to the public, but does not prohibit economic activity and does not establish any limitation to work on construction sites or to the transport of related products. The work does have to follow the recommendations of the Ministry of Health, however, to avoid concentrations of people.
Health and safety measures being introduced by regional governments for construction sites include: continuous work (no collective breaks); taking turns to have lunch; distance of two metres between workers; cleaning stations on site.
Despite being allowed to continue, most works have reportedly been suspended due to problems of staff getting to work (due to restrictions on people travelling together) and supplies. Businesses have also come under pressure from unions, which have complained that construction works are putting the health of workers at risk.
The construction sector is not considered as key essential sector, with an exception for urgent works and emergency interventions.
As such, the general measures apply to the construction sector, i.e., if teleworking is not possible, companies must take necessary measures to comply with the rules of social distancing, in particular keeping of a distance of 1.5 meters between each person/worker. This rule also applies to transport from home to workplace.
The federal guidance does not explicitly reference construction workers in its list of essential critical infrastructure workers. However, this list is intended to be advisory and some states have identified construction as essential business exempt from “stay-at-home” orders.
California: The list of critical infrastructure workers exempt from the 19 March “stay-at-home” order includes construction workers who support the construction, operation, inspection, and maintenance of construction sites and construction projects (including housing construction). Under California State law, violation of the mandate could be a misdemeanour with penalty of fine or imprisonment but California Governor Newsom indicated that for now the order will not be enforced by law enforcement.
New York: The 20 March New York PAUSE executive order lists construction as essential business. The order is not clear whether construction is limited to essential infrastructure or emergency repair and reports suggest that commercial/residential construction has continued as usual. The mandate will be enforced through civil fine and mandatory closure for any business not in compliance.
Pennsylvania: The 19 March executive order for closure of ‘non-life sustaining businesses’ required cessation of construction of all residential and non-residential construction, utility, highway, street and bridge construction except where emergency repairs are required. At this stage, law enforcement are raising awareness of the order rather than enforcement.
New Zealand have moved to Level 4 of its COVID-19 alert on 25 March. Only essential services, defined as those absolutely essential to ensure the necessities of life, will remain open. Among these services is ‘building and construction associated with essential services and critical infrastructure, including to maintain human health and safety at home or work’. Entities providing essential services are required to use alternative ways of working to keep employees safe (effective social distancing). A warning has been issued that enforcement measures may be used, but specific penalties have not yet been communicated.