COVID-19 Advice for Members

HAE EHA produces regular Covid-19 updates, helping members stay up-to-date with coronavirus during these challenging times. The updates contain information on COVID-19, its impact on the plant, tool and event equipment hire sectors, and links to useful and important resources; which can be useful to both businesses and individuals employed in the industry.

If you are looking for advice relating to insurance please contact the team at HAE EHA BusinessGuard on 0121 380 4612 or email businessguard@eha.org.uk.

The Latest Advice and Information

Please review the latest Covid-19 Advice Update and consider the implications for your employees, customers and business continuity. HAE EHA has provided useful links to related articles which will provide further guidance.

We will continue to keep members updated on all issues relating to Covid-19 here so please review frequently:

Covid-19 Advice for HAE EHA Members; Tuesday 2nd March 2021
OVERVIEW
With national roadmaps for the relaxing of current lockdown measures mostly in place, focus is on the UK Budget. The Business Secretary has already confirmed that furlough will be extended, but details are to be outlined in tomorrow's Budget announcement. The Chancellor has spoken about additional support for high streets and culture. There is inevitable tension between encouraging resumption of all business activity and increasing taxes to meet the immense costs of the pandemic. HAE EHA will issue a special Budget update tomorrow (Wednesday 3rd March)

GOVERNMENT UPDATES

ENGLAND
England's Roadmap and the various steps and tests was outlined in a comprehensive overview in last week’s Covid-19 Update. The discovery of another Covid variant from Brazil has sparked some concern and surge testing has been deployed to various areas. The five week gap between each stage in the rollout plan is designed to meet this type of new development. Meanwhile, vaccine rollout is preceding at pace. The number of infections, and thankfully deaths, is declining.

Today, Matt Hancock gave an update to MPs. In summary, he confirmed:

  • The fall in hospitalisations was faster in older age groups who have had the jab, compared to younger age groups who are yet to be vaccinated
  • Cited ONS data which shows that deaths have fallen, by over a quarter per week, in February
  • Also, ONS data on levels of protection have shown that up to the 11th February, 25% of people had COVID antibodies in England, with the highest levels in the over-80s
  • Research shows that a single dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccines delivered protection against severe infection in the over-70s
  • Over-60s are now being offered the vaccine
  • The second vaccination programme would begin in earnest, which would be ramped up through March
  • We are on track to meet the target of offering a vaccine to all adults, over the age of 18, by the end of July
  • Five of the six people who had been identified with the new Brazilian variant had been self-isolating. The search for the sixth case has been narrowed to 379 households in the South East of England. Current vaccines against the new variant are yet to be tested

To view details of the Covid Response Roadmap click here. For an update on the latest surge testing click here. And the latest No.10 briefing can be read in full here.

SCOTLAND
A further announcement was made today concerning schools. The First Minister also said that she hopes to confirm to parliament next week the other changes to the level 4 restrictions that will take effect from the 15th March. The week after, ministers are scheduled to set out a firmer timetable for the period after the 26th April.
For the full report click here.

WALES
An update on the Welsh NHS vaccination programme can be read here.

NORTHERN IRELAND
Current restrictions are set to be reviewed on the 18th March and will remain in legislation until early April. A five-step plan for easing the coronavirus lockdown in Northern Ireland has been agreed by the Stormont Executive. Unlike the plan for England, NI's blueprint does not include a timetable. Progression for each of the nine pathways across social and business settings will depend on key health criteria being met.
For full details click here.
Covid-19 Links and Resources
HAE EHA Guidance (Updated 24th September 2020)
Although 'hire' is not specifically mentioned, plant, tool and equipment hire falls under 'homeware and hardware shops'. The link below is updated government guidance for people who work in or run shops, branches, stores or similar environments:

Updated government guidance

HAE EHA Social Distancing Practical Guidance Documents
Click here to view and download

CBILS Loans Portal from HAE EHA Commercial Finance
Click here to access the portal

Bounce Back Loans Schemes Provider List
BBLS providers and links to application forms

Updated Job Retention Scheme Guidance
Click here to view

Local Covid-19 Lockdown Updates
Updates on where restrictions are in place in England
Guidance on what you can and cannot do

Test and Trace Guidance
Click here to view

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Working Safely Guidance
Click here to view

CITB Covid-19 Communication Updates
Click here to view

Key National Covid-19 Links
England
Scotland
Wales
Northern Ireland

Previous Covid-19 Updates

The COVID-19 emergency is rapidly changing and HAE EHA relies on government and other authoritative sources for information. We can take no responsibility for any out-of-date or inaccurate information and we ask members to check sources and take further advice as required.

Click below to expand each previous Covid-19 Member Update.

REOPENING BUSINESSES AND VENUES
Following on from the Roadmap to unlock current Covid restrictions in England, the government has published a detailed list of business premises and activities that can reopen and when. The timing is dependent on the outcome of various tests outlined by ministers.
OVERVIEW

Prime Minister's Statement
In a statement to Parliament on 22nd February, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, outlined a detailed, Four Step Roadmap to ending England's Covid lockdown. Each step would be conditional on certain tests being met and includes a 5 week interval between each step to evaluate evidence and adjust accordingly.

Whilst there is little direct impact on construction-related activity, apart from the overall easing of travel and economic restrictions, the more direct impact will be a timetable for holding all events.

Accompanying the PM's announcement, the Cabinet Office published COVID-19 Response for Spring 2021, a comprehensive plan for easing and eventually ending lockdown. The document notes the planned updating of Covid-Secure Guidance to take into account ventilation and testing together with further scientific research and pilots for major events, including weddings.

The COVID-19 Response document contains much detail and members are urged to read it in full.

GOVERNMENT UPDATES

ENGLAND

Rollout of Vaccinations
The Government aims for everyone who is 50 and over, or at risk, to have been offered a first dose of the vaccine by 15th April, and for everyone aged 18 and over to have been offered a first dose by 31st July.

Even when vaccinated, there is still a chance people can contract the virus and pass it on. No vaccine is 100% effective and, like all viruses, COVID-19 can mutate. As a result, as lockdown is lifted, there will sadly be more cases, hospitalisations and deaths. The Government will take a cautious approach to easing lockdown, guided by the data in order to avoid a surge in infections that would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS. Due to the relatively uniform spread of the virus across the country, the Government plans to ease restrictions at the same time across the whole of England.

The Roadmap for Easing Restrictions
Each step will be subject to an assessment of the data against four tests. The tests are listed below.

  1. The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully
  2. Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated
  3. Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS
  4. The assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern.

Four Steps to Recovery
The steps are summarised below and each will be subject to an assessment of the data against the four tests listed above. If a step is delayed, subsequent steps will be pushed back in order to maintain the necessary five week period to assess the impact of each step and provide notice.

Step 1 from 8th March

  • Schools will reopen
  • Families will be allowed to meet outdoors
  • People will no longer be legally required to stay at home

Step 2 from 12th April

  • Some sections of our indoor economy will reopen
  • More outdoor settings will reopen
  • Hospitality venues will open for outdoor service but the requirement for ‘table service' will remain
  • Most outdoor settings and attractions can reopen
  • Weddings and commemorative events can take place with up to 15 attendees
  • Pilots for larger scale events during April

Step 3 from 17th May

  • All but the most high-risk sectors will reopen
  • COVID-Secure guidance will remain in place and premises must not cater for groups larger than legal limits
  • Weddings and commemorative events can take place with up to 30 attendees
  • People will be able to meet socially indoors in a group of 6, or with one other household
  • Government will launch the Events Research Programme to examine how larger events could take place without social distancing

Step 4 from 21st June

  • All legal limits on social contact removed
  • Remaining closed settings to be reopened*
  • Large events and theatre performances no longer subject to previous capacity restrictions*
  • All limits removed on weddings and other live events*

* Subject to the outcome of the Events Research Programme

Dates and targets could be subject to change depending on the results of ongoing testing and careful monitoring of infection rates and vaccination milestones. For the full, detailed report on the Government plan for England's recovery click the link below.

England's Four Step Roadmap to Recovery

SCOTLAND

COVID-19 Scotland's Strategic Framework Update
The First Minister has today outlined how Scotland is expected to emerge from the current lockdown and the six main tools for achieving this:

  1. The quickest practical roll-out of the vaccination programme
  2. The most effective use of Test and Protect
  3. Applying proportionate protective measures (rules and guidance) to suppress transmission of the virus
  4. Effective measures to manage the risk of importation of the virus
  5. Supporting individuals, businesses and organisations to adhere to protective measures
  6. Providing care and support to mitigate the harms of the crisis

The Scottish Government has always made it clear that it will prioritise education and a phased return for Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) and schools has already started. It is hoped that more young people will be able to return to school later in March. However, achieving that, together with the opening-up of care home visiting, means that any further easing of restrictions before mid-March is highly unlikely. Indeed, the government envisages that the current requirement to stay at home, unless you have a reasonable excuse for leaving, will be in place until at least early April so that there is sufficient headroom to get more young people back to school. The timing of any changes will be driven by evidence and data, not predetermined dates. It is also important that there is enough time between reviews to see the impact of changes made.

To view the Strategic Framework Update document for Scotland click here.

Unlike for England, geographical (regional and council) restrictions are likely to be announced, details will be issued when available.

WALES

Updated Coronavirus Control Plan: Alert Levels in Wales, Coming out of Lockdown
Stay-at-home restrictions will continue in Wales as the youngest pupils began returning to school on Monday 22nd February. First Minister Mark Drakeford announced, "We are now at alert level four where the strictest 'stay at home' restrictions are in place. Once these are lifted, we will move into a period of transition under which we intend to move gradually, step-by-step, to alert level three." Click here for the full report.

Level 4 Frequently Asked Questions
For a list of FAQs click here.

Economic Resilience and Reconstruction Mission Published
To read the full mission statement click here.

From March 1st the law will be changed to allow licensed wedding venues, such as visitor attractions and hotels, to re-open but only to perform wedding and civil partnership ceremonies. The next three-week review of the regulations will also consider the restrictions around non-essential retail and close contact services. See this statement by the First Minister for more details.

Lockdown Restrictions
There is a lot of media coverage on the forthcoming announcement by the PM on the 22nd February about the timetable for relaxing the national lockdown. Apart from a commitment to reopen primary schools for all pupils, much remains unclear and key decisions are being taken this week on the basis of scientific advice. Boris Johnson led a press conference on Monday 15th February. Find his remarks here.

Vaccination Rollout
More than 15 million people have received their first coronavirus vaccination, with over 1 million more already invited to book a vaccine. In the next phase, GP-led vaccination sites will focus initially on the clinically vulnerable, from cohort 6, due to the relationship between general practice and those with long term conditions. More high street pharmacists are also being invited to take part in the programme. For more details on the progress of vaccines to date, click here.

The government has also published a vaccine uptake plan.

ENGLAND
Surge testing is to be available in areas in Middlesbrough, Walsall and Hampshire in connection to the COVID-19 variant first discovered in South Africa. People living within these targeted areas are strongly encouraged to take a COVID-19 test this week. Find out more here.

SCOTLAND
Funding Available for the Unemployed
The Scottish Government has made available £125 million for the long-term unemployed who have had access to work affected by the pandemic. The fund includes £70m for 16-24 year olds and £35m for skills and retraining. There will also be £20m for helping the long-term unemployed into work. Find more information on the funding here.

Non-domestic Rates Relief Extended
Retail, hospitality, leisure and aviation businesses will pay no rates during 2021-22 under proposals outlined today.

Remote Learning to Continue as Youngest Pupils Return to Classroom
The majority of primary and secondary school pupils will continue with remote learning until at least mid-March while children in early learning and childcare (ELC) and primaries 1 to 3 will return full-time to classrooms from Monday 22nd February. Further details can be found here.

WALES
The Welsh Minister for Health and Social Services has set out enhanced measures for those entering Wales from overseas countries. See the full statement here. The measures will require those who enter Wales to undertake testing on day 2 and 8 of their isolation period, with failure to do so being now classified as a criminal offence.

NORTHERN IRELAND
NI Finance Minister, Conor Murphy, has welcomed an announcement from the Treasury which provides a further £300m funding to be used towards the COVID-19 response either for this year or carried forward into the 2021/22 financial year. See further information here.

HSE UPDATE
Employers are required to report any case of COVID-19 to the relevant enforcing authority under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR) if there is reasonable evidence that suggests it was caused by occupational exposure. Since April 2020, 27,446 cases have been reported to enforcing authorities (HSE and LAs), including 318 death notifications. Find out more here. Find out more here.
WORKPLACE COVID-19 TESTING
HAE EHA attended a construction industry call with the NHS workplace testing team today (Tuesday 9th February). The government is keen for employers with 50 or more workers to sign up to the NHS workplace regular Covid testing programme. The lateral flow tests are aimed at employees who cannot work remotely and are without symptoms. Tests are free of charge until 31st March 2021 with any future charges under review. Please note employers cannot mandate employees to take a test but workplace testing is proving popular in some workplaces and appears to be reducing lost working hours.

NHS TEST AND TRACE IN THE WORKPLACE
New guidance has been released outlining what to do if your employees, or you, are contacted by NHS Test and Trace. This includes instructions on self-isolation and guidance for employees seeking financial help.

NEW ARRANGEMENTS FOR PEOPLE TRAVELLING TO THE UK
From Monday 15th February people arriving in UK from a country on the UK’s travel ban list will have to go into a mandatory 10-day period of quarantine in a government-approved facility. Further details on new travel measures have been announced today.
NEW PAYMENT SCHEME FOR VAT DEFERRALS
Companies that deferred their VAT payments between 20th March and 30th June 2020 due to coronavirus, can either make payment in full by 31st March 2021 or opt into the VAT deferral payment scheme. The scheme, which will launch shortly, will allow companies to repay VAT in up to 11 interest-free monthly instalments until March 2022. Click here to learn more.
GOVERNMENT UPDATES

ENGLAND
National Lockdown
There is speculation in the press about possible scenarios post national lockdown, with the suggestion that the government is thinking of unlocking all of England at the same time or whether we will return to regional tiers. There is also the possibility that some schools could return in March resulting in restrictions being lifted for adults. However, this has not been confirmed and a decision is expected in the coming weeks.

Vaccinations
The focus remains on rolling out vaccinations to key ‘at risk’ groups and frontline healthcare/care-industry workers. The impact of several variants, the latest being a South African strain of Covid-19, is unclear, but increased testing is happening in areas where cases have been identified. The Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock made this statement about coronavirus, yesterday (Monday the 1st February).

In a statement, about the new variant made today (Tuesday the 2nd February), Mr Hancock added: "In areas where the new variant has been found, parts of Broxbourne, London, Maidstone, Southport, Walsall and Woking, we are also putting in extra testing and sequencing every positive test. Anyone who must leave home, to go to a workplace for instance because they cannot work from home, should get tested. All local employers should support and encourage their workers to get tested."

SCOTLAND
Education
Scotland's youngest pupils are likely to return to the classroom full-time from Monday 22nd February as schools start a 'phased reopening'. The move will include all pupils in primary years 1-3 as well as pre-school children.

There will also be a part-time return, but on a very limited basis, for senior secondary pupils to allow them to complete work for national qualifications. A final decision will be taken on the partial reopening in a fortnight. Further details of the next phase of the gradual return to schools will also be set out at that point, alongside a timescale for the return of in-person learning for colleges and universities.

Scottish National Lockdown
All of the country's other lockdown restrictions will remain in place until at least the end of February. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said today she was "cautiously optimistic" that some gradual easing of the rules could be possible from early March. You can read her full statement here.

Funding and Support
Some useful coronavirus support and advice for businesses in Scotland, including safety guidance and links to sources of funding can be found here. The following new Covid-19 guidance documents may be of interest to hire businesses in Scotland, particularly those in the events sector.

WALES
Vaccinations
The Welsh government has met a declared milestone by vaccinating its entire care home population.

Funding and Support
Further details on a £200 million fund to support Welsh businesses can be found here. A written statement concerning the extension of the Restrictions Business Fund can be read here. Event hire businesses, with a turnover below £500,000 could qualify for a £2,000 grant from the Local Discretionary Fund outlined in this statement. EHA members are urged to submit an application.

NORTHERN IRELAND
A summary of business support in place throughout the region can be found here. It is specified here that self-employed individuals who have not been able to access support from the UK Government’s Self-Employed Income Support Scheme can apply for a one-off taxable grant of £3,500.

UK TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS
The government has announced further action for outbound and inbound passengers to minimise travel across international borders and reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission.

  • For those wishing to travel out of the UK Anyone who does not have a valid reason for travel will be directed to return home, may face a fine, and the reason for travel will be checked. The list of travel exemptions will be urgently reviewed so that only the most important and exceptional reasons are included. The current list of jobs that qualify for travel exemptions is available here.
  • For those seeking to enter the UK Those arriving from countries where UK Government has imposed international travel bans and cannot be refused entry, will be required to isolate in hotels for 10 days without exception. More details will be provided in due course.

The full statement can be found here.

SUPPORTING BUSINESSES AND JOBS

CAMPAIGNING FOR THE WEDDINGS AND EVENTS INDUSTRY
HAE EHA continues to work with the Event Industry Forum (EIF) on behalf of EHA members to highlight the huge pressure on the event supply chain and continue to share information to support an industry-wide campaign. Lack of dedicated funding support remains the key concern. Colleagues are also cooperating with weddings industry organisations on a safe, more comprehensive restart for that important component of the events sector. The association has joined the UK Weddings Task Force to support our members, and this week participated in the Council of Representatives meeting and the 'Opening Up' Working Group.

A major barrier for event organisers is finding appropriate insurance to cover communicable diseases. The government has stalled on this, you can read more in this article.

SKILLS, EMPLOYMENT AND SUPPORT PROGRAMMES FOR JOBSEEKERS
A new online resource, part of the UK Government's Plan for Jobs, brings together guidance for jobs seekers so they can develop their skills, get advice on job applications, and search for opportunities.

CLOSED BUSINESSES LOCKDOWN PAYMENT (CBLP)
This payment supports businesses that have been required to close due to the national restrictions which began on 5th January 2021. Eligible businesses may be entitled to a one-off cash grant of up to £9,000 from their local council. To find out if you are eligible, and how to apply, click here.

PROTECTING PRIVACY WITH CORONAVIRUS JOB RETENTION SCHEME CLAIMS
If, as an employer, publishing your claim details could leave individuals at risk of violence or intimidation, you can request HMRC not to publish details about your Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme claim. You will need to show evidence that it would result in a serious risk of violence or intimidation to:

  • you or anyone living with you
  • an individual associated with your business or anyone living with them

For more information on what you will need to make a request, click here.

COMPANIES HOUSE PAUSE STRIKE-OFF PROCESSES FOR ONE MONTH
Voluntary and compulsory strike-off processes have been temporarily paused for one month from 21st January until 21st February 2021.This will provide companies with more time to update their records and help them avoid being struck off the register. It will also protect creditors and other interested parties who might have had difficulties receiving notices or registering an objection, or whose objections have not yet been processed. Find out more here.

SELF EMPLOYMENT INCOME SUPPORT SCHEME (SEISS)
A third grant is available and guidance has been provided in the form of a useful video outlining how to claim SEISS. To watch the video and register for more free webinars to learn more about how to claim the?third grant click here.

LOCAL RESTRICTIONS SUPPORT GRANTS (LRSG) FOR CLOSED BUSINESSES
Guidance has been updated with details of grants available during the national restriction period from 5th January 2021 onwards. To check if your business is eligible for a cash grant from your local council for each period under national restrictions, click here.

HELP TO CALCULATE EMPLOYEE WAGE FOR CORONAVIRUS JOB RETENTION SCHEME
Guidance has been updated with new calculation examples to cover the lookback period and examples to clarify eligibility for the annually paid.

  • For examples to cover the lookback period, click here
  • For examples to clarify eligibility for the annually paid, click here.

CHANGES TO THE KICKSTART SCHEME
The government will make it even simpler for employers of all sizes to benefit from joining the scheme by removing the condition which requires them to create a minimum of 30 vacancies to apply directly.

  • From the 3rd February 2021, employers can apply directly to the Kickstart Scheme for any number of job placements, as the threshold of 30 job placements has been removed
  • From the 28th January 2021, Kickstart gateways, already working with the scheme, can continue to add more employers and job placements to their grant agreement
FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR BUSINESSES DURING CORONAVIRUS
Businesses are still relying heavily on government support during the pandemic. Click here for details of business support measures available in the UK.
NO CHANGES TO CURRENT LOCKDOWN RESTRICTIONS AT THIS TIME
Health Secretary for England, Matt Hancock, gave an overall situation update at a press conference held yesterday, click here to read.

MORE EMPLOYERS SIGN UP TO RAPID TESTING
In a bid to protect their workforces numerous employers have opted for rapid testing. Find out more here.

FURTHER TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS LIKELY
Ministers are expected to approve a plan which will require UK citizens to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days if they arrive in England from high-risk countries.

MANAGING COVID WITHIN CONTRACTS
Build UK has produced some helpful guidance on this which can be viewed here.

CORONAVIRUS TESTS, TAXABLE EXPENSES AND BENEFITS
The tests provided by the government as part of the national testing scheme, are not treated as a benefit in kind for tax purposes. If you’re providing antigen testing kits to your employees, outside of the government’s national testing scheme, either directly or by purchasing tests that are carried out by a third party, no Income Tax or Class 1A National Insurance contributions will be due. Similarly, employers and their employees will not be liable to any Income Tax or National Insurance contributions, where an employee receives money from their employer for obtaining a test. Click here for more information.

VAT DEFERRED DUE TO CORONAVIRUS
A new section has been added to the guidance on ‘Correcting errors on your VAT returns relating to the VAT payments deferral scheme’. There is now information available which covers how to defer any extra payments resulting from error corrections and HMRC VAT assessments. Read more here.

VACCINE UPDATES

INTERNATIONAL CONCERNS OVER SUPPLIES
Concerns have been rising about the levels of vaccine supplies available over the coming months. Nadhim Zahawi, the UK minister responsible for the vaccination rollout gave this interview where he states the programme is still on track.

SCOTLAND
For an update on vaccination rollout throughout Scotland click here.
SCOTLAND
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today confirmed that the current lockdown measures will stay in place across mainland Scotland, and some island communities, until at least mid-February.

In addition, Barra and Vatersay will move into lockdown from midnight on Wednesday 20th January following a sharp increase in infection rates. The rest of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar will remain under Level 3 restrictions.

Schools across Scotland will continue to deploy remote learning until mid-February at the earliest. Vulnerable children and those from key-worker families will be taught in school.

During an update to Parliament the First Minister made it clear that while lockdown appears to be having an impact on case numbers, transmission of the virus remains too high to relax restrictions at this time. You can read the full report here.

RUNNING APPRENTICESHIPS DURING COVID-19
The government has issued guidance for businesses on how to deliver apprenticeship programmes during the pandemic. Click here for more information.
FURTHER RESTRICTION MEASURES ANNOUNCED FOR SCOTLAND
From Saturday all non-essential click and collect retail services will be prohibited in Level 4 areas. Further changes to how essential services operate will also be put in place.

Click and Collect services offered by essential retailers can continue. The regulations and guidance in Scotland do specify that "building merchants and suppliers of products and tools used in building work and repairs" are deemed to be essential businesses and may continue to operate. Click here for a full report on the strengthening of Scottish restrictions.

SALES VISITS AND MEETINGS IN PERSON
A reminder that you can only leave home for work purposes where it is unreasonable for you to do your job from home. This includes, but is not limited to, people who work within critical national infrastructure, construction or manufacturing that require in-person attendance.

Work purposes is one of the permitted reasons for travel but this is tempered by the legal requirement to operate in a Covid-safe way and to work remotely where possible. Many hire depots are refusing visitors who are non-staff or customers.
OVERVIEW
National lockdowns are in place across the UK with an expectation they will remain in force until at least the end February 2021. The rise in Covid-19 infections and increased hospitalisation might lead to additional tightening, with new restrictions expected to be announced for Scotland this week.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has presented an economic update to Parliament in advance of the Budget due on 3rd March. Click here for the full speech.

CONSTRUCTION AND SUPPORTING TRADES TO CONTINUE OPERATING
The new Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, has written to the construction industry outlining his pledge to protect the industry. Read the letter here.

GOVERNMENT UPDATES

ENGLAND
The level of community testing for people without Covid symptoms (asymptomatic) is to be expanded across all areas in England, click here for details. And, click here for the latest rules and guidance on the National Lockdown.

SCOTLAND
The Scottish National Lockdown rules are outlined here.

WALES
National Lockdown rules and guidance for Wales, currently under Alert Level 4 can be found here.

NORTHERN IRELAND
Details and the restrictions across Northern Ireland are provided here.

INDUSTRY UPDATES & OTHER RESOURCES

SITE OPERATING PROCEDURES UPDATED
The Construction Leadership Council has produced an updated version of the Site Operating Procedures, you can view and download them here.

LIVE MUSIC TEST COULD BE GOOD NEWS FOR EVENTS
Encouraging for the events sector, a group of scientists have held a concert to test live music without social distancing. Read the report here.

UK VACCINES UPDATE

VACCINES PLAN PUBLISHED THIS WEEK
The UK Covid-19 Vaccines Delivery Plan was published on Monday 11th January, and can be read in full here.
NEW VACCINE ROLLED OUT TODAY
The new Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine was deployed today, Thursday 7th January 2021, after trials at selected hospitals. Read the full story here.

CORONAVIRUS JOB RETENTION SCHEME
Use these links to find out about employee furlough rules and whether claims can be made for funding from the scheme.


GUIDANCE ON WORK ABSENCE DUE TO SELF ISOLATION
This guidance for employers helps understand statutory sick pay and when it’s safe for employees to return to work

FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR BUSINESSES AFFECTED BY CORONAVIRUS
Click here for information on the various loans and grants available to your businesses.

REPORTING COVID OUTBREAKS IN YOUR WORKPLACE
Find information here on reporting cases of coronavirus in your organisation.
OVERVIEW
The UK Chief Medical Officers issued a joint statement on Monday 4th January recommending that the UK Covid-19 alert should rise to the highest level of Tier 5. This preempted a series of new restrictions across the UK with broadly similar lockdown measures now in place in each of the Nations.

The update specifies that hire and rental activities can continue to operate, and challenges from local authorities or the police should not apply to hire locations or drivers on company business.

GOVERNMENT UPDATES

ENGLAND
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a lockdown across England due to the rapid escalation in Covid cases, particularly involving new variants. The measures come into effect from 12:00am Wednesday 6th January 2021. They are similar (but more extensive) to Tier 4 provisions with the closure of non-essential businesses. Hire and rental companies are permitted to trade together with order and collect operations. But the general advice across all sectors is for home working, where this is not possible travel for work purposes is permitted.

Construction, utility activities and maintenance work on private homes are all permitted to continue, as they are in other UK nations. The lockdown will be reviewed mid-February but the expectation is for it to remain in force until at least 22nd February and possibly into March. Click here for the latest guidance on lockdown in England. Key extracts from this updated guidance are:

  • Where people cannot work from home - including, but not limited to, people who work in critical national infrastructure, construction, or manufacturing - they should continue to travel to their workplace
  • Employers and employees should discuss their working arrangements, and employers should take every step possible to facilitate employees working from home, including providing suitable IT and equipment to enable remote working
  • Businesses and venues that provide goods for sale or hire are permitted to remain open, including builders' merchants and suppliers of products and tools used in building work and repairs. Storage and distribution facilities including delivery drop off or collection points, are also able to open where the facilities are in the premises of a business allowed to remain open
  • Businesses which may not remain open include carpet stores, and DIY showrooms (i.e. for bathrooms, kitchens, tiles, and glazing)

Visit this web-page for full details.

NEW BUSINESS SUPPORT GRANTS
The Chancellor has today announced further business support. This includes one-off top-up grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses worth up to £9,000 per property to help businesses through to the spring, and a £594 million discretionary fund also made available to support other impacted businesses.

SCOTLAND
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced new measures which will see a lockdown across Scotland until at least the end of January. Less restrictive measures apply to the Island areas currently in Tier 3. Guidance specifies that building merchants and suppliers of products and tools used in building work and repairs are permitted to trade however, tradespeople should only go into a house to carry out or deliver essential work or services. Full details can be found here.

WALES
Although already in a status of lockdown further measures involving school closures were announced as part of a national effort to further suppress Covid-19 infections. Construction and hire are deemed to be essential business, and can remain open, click here for more information.

The guidance states "work carried out in people’s homes, for example by tradespeople, can 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 guidance suggests consideration is given to deferring non-urgent construction work until a time when restrictions are eased.

NORTHERN IRELAND
There are currently restrictions in place which commenced on the 26th December and are due to last 6 weeks. Businesses permitted to remain open include building supplies and hardware stores, those offering products and services which can include components, parts as well as tools and machinery. The Executive met on the 4th January to discuss Covid-19 and made this statement viewable here.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND
Level 5 measures are in place and full details can be found here. Hardware outlets, builders' merchants and outlets that provide products home and business maintenance or construction are permitted to trade, this includes outlets selling safety supplies (including work-wear apparel and PPE).

UK VACCINES UPDATE

PRIME MINISTER'S ADDRESS
In the Prime Minister's address it was stated: "By the middle of February, if things go well and with a fair wind in our sails, we expect to have offered the first vaccine dose to everyone in the four top priority groups identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. That means vaccinating all residents in a care home for older adults and their carers, everyone over the age of 70, all frontline health and social care workers, and everyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable. If we succeed in vaccinating all those groups, we will have removed huge numbers of people from the path of the virus."

It is also announced that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was given for the first time on Monday the 4th January, the full story is available here.