I have spoken out against new industry guidance released by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC), which has relaxed measures to stop the spread of coronavirus on construction sites.
The guidance says that where workers are required to work within two metres of each other they should: “work side by side, or facing away from each other, rather than face to face”. When this is not possible and workers have to work “face to face” within two metres of each other workers should: “Keep this to 15 minutes or less where possible”.
This new watered-down guidance is endangering the lives of construction workers, their families and the general public. It is alarming that the CLC has issued this guidance and, even more so, that it is apparently based on advice from Public Health England.
Many construction workers are self-employed and will not be eligible for statutory sick pay, while the government’s coronavirus support scheme for the self-employed will not release funds until June at the earliest.
In the meantime, workers who are self-employed will be forced to apply to Universal Credit. As a result, construction workers may feel pressure to continue working even with coronavirus symptoms to avoid a dramatic loss of income.
Social distancing is crucial to stopping the spread of coronavirus and must not be undermined by the CLC or any other industry body.
As well as condemning this advice, the government should immediately increase Statutory Sick Pay in line with average earnings and make it available to everyone, including the self-employed, so that everyone can afford to socially distance properly.