Coronavirus resource page

In light of the coronavirus situation, HBF has produced this resource page to provide members with links to helpful information, guidance and advice. We will update the below list when further information becomes available.

We are working closely with Government on a range of related issues to ensure members’ concerns are being factored into thinking as Government develops its response to the ongoing crisis. We are holding daily meetings with officials from a range of Government departments; and regular calls with members and member groups to ensure we are acting as an effective conduit between Government and industry. We are also engaging with a broad range of other stakeholders including Homes England, the Bank, utility providers, materials suppliers and Local Authorities.

We have committed to providing Government with a range of information and statistics about how the crisis is impacting the industry and will be contacting members accordingly. Please provide any information or comments to HBF’s Policy Director, David O’Leary: david.oleary@hbf.co.uk.

In conjunction with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), HBF has produced the below ‘Charter for Safe Working Practice’ to ensure that home building activity is carried out safely and in accordance with the advice of Government and Public Health England during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Click here to view the charter

Coronavirus testing for construction workers

The Government has extended the criteria under which people in England can receive testing for Coronavirus to include those who cannot work from home but are showing symptoms. This widening will now mean that construction workers that show symptoms would be able to get tested. Details of how to apply for testing can be found here.

Coronavirus sales and marketing procedures guidance

HBF has produced a guidance document for members on the protocols that must be put in place to ensure the safe-reopening of sales outlets. The guidance document can be found here. 

The guidance has been developed in conjunction with some of HBF’s major members and has been fed into our discussions with Government on the safe restarting of the safe sales process that was recently announced

Coronavirus - Sales and Marketing Operating Procedures May 2020 FINAL.pdf Member Only

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Support for businesses

It’s been acknowledged by Government that the disruption caused by coronavirus will have an impact on businesses. To help mitigate these impacts, it has announced a range of measures to support companies through this period. A summary can be found below but full details can be found at https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus/business-support

Under the coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, all UK employers with a PAYE scheme will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis. This applies to employees who have been asked to stop working, but who are being kept on the pay roll, otherwise described as ‘furloughed workers’. HMRC will reimburse 80% of their wages, up to £2,500 per month. This is to safeguard workers from being made redundant. 

Employers can submit their claims here.

This scheme will help businesses affected by coronavirus to access bank lending and overdrafts if they need to. For loans up to £5 million, the Government is providing a guarantee of 80% for each loan. This will give lenders the confidence to continue to provide finance to businesses. The Government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee.

The new Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) means that the Bank of England will buy short-term debt from larger companies. This will support companies which are fundamentally strong, but have been affected by a short-term funding squeeze. It will also support corporate finance markets overall and ease the supply of credit to all firms. The scheme will be funded by central bank reserves – in line with other Bank of England market operations. It will operate for at least 12 months, and for as long as steps are needed to relieve cash flow pressures on firms that make a material contribution to the UK economy.

Government will support businesses by deferring Valued Added Tax (VAT) payments for 3 months.

The Government will bring forward legislation to allow small and medium-sized businesses to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for staff sickness absence due to coronavirus. This refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of coronavirus.

HMRC has published guidance containing further information which can be read here. The scheme will launch on 26th May.

All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service. These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities.

Businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in England will not have to pay business rates for the 2020-21 tax year. Businesses that received the retail discount in the 2019-20 tax year will be rebilled by their local authority as soon as possible.

The Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will support self-employed individuals (including members of partnerships) whose income has been negatively impacted by COVID-19. The scheme will provide a grant to self-employed individuals or partnerships, worth 80% of their profits up to a cap of £2,500 per month.

HMRC will use the average profits from tax returns in 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 to calculate the size of the grant. The scheme will be open to those where the majority of their income comes from self-employment and who have profits of less than £50,000. The scheme will be open for an initial three months with people able to make their first claim by the beginning of June.

Full guidance can be found here.

The Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) supports large businesses, with an annual turnover of over £45 million.

All viable businesses with turnover of more than £45 million per year can apply for up to £25 million of finance. Firms with a turnover of more than £250 million can apply for up to £50 million of finance. This will increase to £200 million from 26 May, further information can be found here.

The scheme is available through a series of accredited lenders, which are listed on the British Business Bank website. The government provides lenders with an 80% guarantee on individual loans. This gives banks the confidence to lend to many more businesses which are impacted by coronavirus. Facilities backed by a guarantee under CLBILS are offered at commercial rates of interest.

This scheme allows lenders to support businesses that were viable before the coronavirus outbreak but now face significant cash flow difficulties that would otherwise make their business unviable in the short term.

Further information can be found here.

The Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) provides financial support to businesses across the UK that are losing revenue, and seeing their cashflow disrupted, as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and that can benefit from £50,000 or less in finance.

BBLS is available through a range of British Business Bank accredited lenders and partners, listed on the British Business Bank website.

A lender can provide a six-year term loan from £2,000 up to 25% of a business’ turnover. The maximum loan amount is £50,000.

The scheme gives the lender a full (100%) government-backed guarantee against the outstanding balance of the facility (both capital and interest). Further information can be found here.

HBF Briefings

HBF is producing Members’ Briefings on a regular basis to keep the industry updated. Links to the briefings can be found below:

Click here to view  HBF’s latest media ‘lines to take’ in the form of a Q and A.

Please feel free to send any general media enquiries our way (steve.turner@hbf.co.uk). We will continue to update and re-issue the document as the situation evolves.

Covid-19 secure guidelines

  • Guidance for people who work in or run outdoor working environments.
  • Guidance for people who work in or run factories, plants and warehouses.
  • run indoor labs and research facilities and similar environments.
  • Guidance for people who work in or run offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments.
  • Guidance for people working in, visiting or delivering to other people's homes.
  • Guidance for people who work in or run shops, branches, stores or similar environments.
  • Guidance for people who work in or from vehicles, including couriers, mobile workers, lorry drivers, on-site transit and work vehicles, field forces and similar.

The Government recognises that there is a role for additional, more granular guidance for individual sectors to complement its framework guidance.

This means that the existing Construction Leadership Council Site Operating Procedures (version 4) remain valid and that HBF’s Charter and any guidance for sales operations will sit alongside and complement the Government guidance.

Government guidance for Help to Buy: Equity Loan customers

Homes England has published guidance for Help to Buy: Equity Loan customers which seeks to answer some of the frequently asked questions that have arisen as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The guidance covers a range of topics including Authority to Proceed, valuations and completions.

RIDDOR reporting of coronavirus

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), you must only make a report under RIDDOR (The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) when: 

  • an unintended incident at work has led to someone’s possible or actual exposure to coronavirus. This must be reported as a dangerous occurrence.

or

  • a worker has been diagnosed as having COVID 19 and there is reasonable evidence that it was caused by exposure at work. This must be reported as a case of disease.

Further information can be found here.

Site operating procedures

The Construction Leadership Council has produced the following guidance to help protect workers on site, click here to view.

The Construction Leadership Council, working with the Construction Coronavirus Taskforce, has developed guidance – Advice on temporary suspension of sites – to ensure that any closures can be achieved as safely as possible, avoiding potential issues while the site is not active.

Morrisroe have produced a video outlining how they have implemented government guidance on social distancing on site.

Redrow has produced two videos to demonstrate the measures being put in place to ensure safe working on its sites and the safe operation of its sales centres during the coronavirus crisis.

NHBC has produced a risk assessment document which is being used by employees undertaking site inspections during the coronavirus pandemic. The document can be viewed here.

Government guidance on home moving

The advice published today by the government states that:

  • People who currently have coronavirus or who are self-isolating should not move
  • Individuals who are clinically vulnerable or who are shielding should pay consider their situation carefully and make others in the transaction aware of their status. The advice notes that some moves, including to currently unoccupied properties are lower risk

Developers can continue with sales but should ensure that sales teams follow safe working guidance and inform both employees and consumers about their procedures.

  • Where possible, virtual viewings should be promoted
  • Physical viewings, including visits to show homes should be by appointment with one household visiting one property at a time
  • Surfaces should be cleaned between viewings
  • New reservations and contracts should take account of risks posed by coronavirus, including necessary flexibilities should someone fall ill or need to self-isolate

New advice to estate agents include ruling out open house viewings and arranging visits to offices and viewings of properties by appointment only. The advice also includes instructions on the principles that underpin safe viewings of properties.

Government advice to surveyors and EPC assessors makes professionals and members of the public aware of the need to share information on the property in advance to minimise time spent at the property. With regard to occupied properties, householders’ contact with surveyors should be minimised.

HBF continues to work with RICS and individual firms to develop more tailored guidelines, particularly around provision of information, with the aim of supporting valuers to recommence their work where necessary on site.

The advice to conveyancers continues to prioritise flexibility. Conveyancers are advised to take particular care in their advice to clients when moving to a currently occupied property. This states that they should ‘promote flexibility making provisions for the risks presented by coronavirus, for example when advising their clients who are ready to move not to exchange contracts on occupied property unless they have made explicit provision for the risks presented by the virus’

Where inspectors are required to visit an occupied property, they should contact the household in advance to check on the health status of those present. Where possible warranty providers should investigate claims remotely using photo and video evidence.

Removers are advised to make contact with households in advance to check whether symptoms of coronavirus are on display and also to encourage households to ensure internal doors are open and surfaces are clean. Where possible teams should be kept as consistent as possible.

HBF has supported the British Association of Removers in the development of their industry’s safe working protocols.

Removers, like surveyors, warranty providers and others, are advised to pay close attention to existing government guidance on safe working in other people’s homes.

The updated advice on home moving can be found here. The updated regulations which now include home buying and selling activities among the reasons for which it is acceptable to leave one’s home can be found here.

 

Construction products

The Construction Products Association (CPA) has provided an update on the status and response of its members to coronavirus.

CPA Company Members Status 27 March 2020.pdf Member Only

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Builders merchants

The Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) has produced a list of its member companies indicating whether they are open or closed during the coronavirus pandemic. The list can be found on their website.

Remediation and coronavirus: Building safety

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has published guidance on remediation and building safety during the coronavirus pandemic.

It states that “making buildings safe, including progressing the remediation of high-rise buildings with unsafe cladding” remains a government priority and that this work is “critical to public safety”.

The remainder of the guidance provides advice to the construction industry on how to continue working during this period to remediate buildings in a way that is consistent with PHE guidelines.

Training and apprenticeship implications

CITB is making available advanced payment of apprenticeship attendance grants for second and third-year apprentices to help keep skills within the construction industry amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The payments will be available from 6 April for apprentices already subject to CITB grant support and who are currently in the second or third year of their apprenticeship for the remainder of the year. 

They will support 7,500 apprentices, and will advance to employers up to £2,500 in attendance grant at a time when retaining apprentices is critical.

Further information on what CITB is doing to support construction employers through the coronavirus crisis is available here

As part of the cross-government efforts to respond to the impact of coronavirus, the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) is implementing new measures, for the duration of the pandemic, to make it easier for apprenticeships to continue and complete in a different way if they need to, or to break and resume an apprenticeship later when that becomes possible.

Further information can be found here.

CITB has developed a free app so that employers can run their own in-house interim testing. The app will give employers a level of local assurance to help them determine if an employee is safe to work on their site.

The app will be available to download from app stores shortly. A PC download version is available here, under the HS&E Test heading.

The app will give breathing space to employers during the temporary closure of all Pearson Vue HS&E test centres and the suspension of testing throughout our Independent Test Centre (ITC) network.

NHBC has launched a series of free virtual training webinars to support the industry during the coronavirus crisis.

From April 1, NHBC’s specialist training team will keep housebuilders and their supply chain updated on topics including NHBC Standards, Building Regulations, onsite good practice and health and safety requirements.

Visit www.nhbc.co.uk/webinars for full schedule and details.

CITB is reviewing training that meets its Assured Standards and have identified 22 that can be delivered through remote learning, or online video links like Teams, Skype, Zoom, WebEx and others.

The full list includes courses such as floor repair, effective snagging and pre-handover checks, and asbestos management. It is available to view here.

CITB have compiled a database of local and regional advice services that they’ve been using and signposting to employers across England, Scotland and Wales during this crisis. They’ve been asked to make the database more widely available and have uploaded it to their website.

The Supply Chain Sustainability School (SCSS) have launched a range of ‘lockdown learning’ courses for businesses comprising of virtual workshops, lunch and learn sessions and business bytes. Topics covered include, but are not limited to, Fairness, Inclusion and Respect (FIR), sustainability and Modern Methods of Construction (MMC). Please visit the SCSS website for further information and to register.

Volunteer mentors are being sought to support women looking to work in the homebuilding industry.

A new remote mentoring programme has been launched by Women into Construction to act as a lifeline for women who have completed their Pathway into Home Building training but are finding it difficult to find employment or work placement because of the restrictions in place to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

Volunteer mentors could be employees working from home or those who have been furloughed. They would need to commit to providing a minimum of 30 minutes per session for up to five sessions.

Anna Walterskotter, project manager for the Women into Construction organisation, said: “During this uncertain time, we are working with the industry to offer women remote advice, guidance and support so we can continue to empower and inspire women into homebuilding.

“We may not be able to arrange face-to-face meetings, but a mentor’s voice, experience, and encouragement can still make a huge impact on a woman’s confidence and decision-making as they consider a new career path.”

If you are able to help, please contact Anna at anna.walterskotter@women-into-construction.org

Guidance for companies operating in Scotland and Wales

The Scottish Government has recommended that work on construction sites, unless it is for essential projects, should stop immediately, as confirmed in new guidance for the construction industry.

The guidance makes clear that work on construction projects should cease unless it is supporting crucial work during the coronavirus pandemic.

Any project deemed essential can only continue operating if it can comply with guidance on social distancing, safety and welfare during the outbreak. Any site unable to meet these requirements should close.

Essential projects include:

  • those to create or repurpose facilities which will be used directly in COVID-19 related activities
  • projects to create or repurpose facilities which will be used to accommodate key workers, or free up space in facilities to be used directly in COVID-19 related activities
  • projects which are considered essential public services
  • the repair and maintenance of critical infrastructure

The guidance can be read here.

The Welsh Government has published new guidance for businesses about taking all reasonable measures to maintain physical distancing in the workplace.

The guidance states “in any other workplace that remains open, the person responsible for the work must take all reasonable measures to ensure that a distance of 2 metres is maintained between person on the premises and waiting to enter the premises.”

Further information, including what constitutes a ‘reasonable measure’, can be found in the guidance here.

Advice for employers

The Government has produced, and is regularly updating, guidance for employers on issues relating to coronavirus including symptoms, Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), certifying absence from work, limiting the spread and what to do if an employee needs time off to look after a dependent.

Public Health England has produced a poster for employers to share with colleagues which provides advice on what to do if someone displays symptoms of coronavirus and how to halt the spread of the virus.

Acas, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, have also produced a comprehensive guide for employers regarding coronavirus. It covers a number of topics including sick pay, annual leave and best practice.

Advice for employees

If an employee has questions about coronavirus in relation to their employment, you may wish to direct them to the Government guidance.

Tips for working from home

In light of recent Government advice, many more of us are now working at home. The BBC has produced a guide advising “Five ways to work well from home”, to help people work efficiently and keep their spirits up.

From a health and safety perspective, the HSE has published guidance for employers on protecting home workers – read it here.

HBF’s Home Building Skills Partnership have also produced a light-hearted list of their ‘top tips’ which you may find useful to share with staff:

  •  You can get up later (a positive), but don’t sit in your pyjamas all day, get dressed and decent for the day, make a new routine otherwise everything merges into one (obviously you do all have to have a pyjama day at least once to say you have done it)

Many of you will have gained an hour or more back in the day that you would have spent travelling – do something proactive and positive with that time, don’t just extend your laptop time – exercise is the obvious, but you could do one of those little jobs you never get around to doing e.g. clean out a cupboard, tidy the garage, be creative – get to the end of this crisis with something extra!

  • Set yourself times to do other short tasks (5 mins) throughout the working day – e.g. washing up, walking dog – rather than do it all before you start work (as you would if you were leaving the house) otherwise you will burn out by lunchtime.  You can also set yourself a target time for a coffee/tea break. If you are not alone at home, you can also be clear these are the moments you can be interrupted.

Linked to above – get up at regular intervals – you will be amazed how few steps you do unless you force yourself.  Wear your Fitbit if you have one. 

Some people find background noise helps but this is a personal choice as others hate it. If you do have the radio on, keep it close to you so you can turn it off during phone calls.

This is one that really surprised us, how many people think working from home means ‘available for them’!  Explain to whoever you need to when you are available and stick to it.   

A distraction and very tempting! So, either keep it empty or make them rewards for completing a piece of work or similar. 

Take a proper break and do something else – try not to watch Loose Women... 

You do have to be more structured in your approach than a face to face meeting, so that means prepare well beforehand and its near impossible to ‘pop out to the loo’. 

We phone each other frequently, sometimes it’s not about work, it’s just to have a five minute catch up to ease frustration and makes you feel like a team.  Microsoft Teams also has a type of ‘WhatsApp’ function so why not set up a group chat with those you normally talk to in the office.

Shut the door or tidy the space away.  If you have to work in one of your main living spaces, tidy your laptop and work away – if you spend the evening looking at your laptop and work papers spread about it means you never switch off (really important if you are working in your bedroom, waking up to look at the pile of work you didn’t finish the day before is not good for your mental health).

you can fit in the small chores during the day - prep your evening meal, pay a bill and also put washing in the machine.

Mental health and wellbeing

The uncertainty and disruption being caused by coronavirus has the potential to take its toll on our mental health, particularly for those already living with conditions like anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Consequently, it’s vital that we all take steps to protect our mental health. The Mental Health Foundation has produced some helpful advice as has the World Health Organization. Guides on looking after your mental wellbeing while staying at home and for dealing with worry regarding coronavirus can also be found on the NHS website.

People working in construction (and their families) are also able to seek advice from Lighthouse Club, the construction industry charity. Further information can be found at https://www.lighthouseclub.org/.

Other useful sources of information

CITB have outlined what they are doing to support construction employers through the coronavirus crisis and beyond. The guidance provides information in relation to: apprenticeships, grants, HS&E test, funding and more.

Further detail can be found on their website.