The UK Government announcement that it was time to work from home wherever possible, and to close all non-essential businesses which according to the Timber Trade Federation (TTF) started the confusion, as “hardware” stores – including timber and builders’ merchants – were exempt from the list. Source: Timberbiz
Meanwhile, Government advice on construction and manufacturing including distribution businesses, was and is to remain open but work within health and safety regulations regarding physical distancing within the workplace.
This put many in an impossible situation: nobody wants to be losing business in this time, yet staff from all members businesses saw the announcement. They would be under pressure from families to stay home, causing friction with employers.
In addition, there were numerous reports of a backlash on social media from members’ customers accusing them of profiteering by staying open. This has left many not knowing what to do for the best, with lots of members’ now closing or furloughing staff to maintain operations with minimal personnel.
This came at the same time as many contractors and house builders closed operations some for just 48-72 hours to assess their guidelines for work.
TTF advised members to act with their heads and hearts saying: if you can continue operations while remaining within Government guidelines for health and safety and have consulted with staff about their own concerns and the risks this may pose then you should be free to continue. If in doubt read the Government’s guidance for employers and businesses on coronavirus (COVID-19) guidelines, guidance on going to work and guidance from Public Health England for employers and businesses.
However, for the majority of members who do not feel 100% confident that they can meet those criteria, then temporary closure and making use of Government support measures is the most viable route forward.
TTF believes a majority of its members would fall into this category.
A task force of 11 organisations has been formed by the UK Government to deal with construction issues The CPA is part of this and TTF will feed in its views via this route.
As the corona situation develops it is more important than ever for the TTF to get a clear picture of what is happening across its membership and so it has instigated a short survey. It is hoped that this survey will help communications and outreach to Government and other stakeholders.