Please note: The information contained in this article is correct as of 26/03/2020. Due to the developing nature of the coronavirus situation in the UK, government guidance is expected to be updated frequently. While we are doing all we can to ensure our blogs are as up to date as possible, we would always advise you speak with a solicitor for guidance on individual circumstances.

A number of builders merchants closed following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday evening that all UK workers should stay at home unless it was essential that they go to work.

Subsequent to this however the Builders Merchants Federation requested and received clarification from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy on builders’ merchants’ operational status following the nationwide lockdown. The government have now clarified that builders merchants are a vital part of the construction supply chain and that it is important that they continue to support the construction industry to operate on sites; however, all operations should be carried out while observing Public Health England (PHE) guidelines.

With regard to construction work generally, the government’s current guidance is that construction sites may stay open provided the Public Health England (PHE) guidelines, including keeping two-metres from others, can be maintained. Smaller works, such as work carried out in people’s homes (for example, by tradespeople carrying out repairs and maintenance) can also continue, provided that the tradesperson is well and has no coronavirus symptoms and a two-metre distance is maintained from the householder. This is particularly important whilst measures to support the self-employed remain worryingly absent.  Companies and individuals are also asked to follow the guidance on Site Operating Procedures – Protecting Your Workforce issued by Build UK and the Construction Leadership Council.

This clarification reflects the importance of construction work to the economy and the confusion in many quarters about what the Prime Minister meant when he said that people must stay at home unless it is essential that they physically attend their work premises. The actual meaning being that if work cannot be done from home, because of the nature of the work, then people could still attend their work premises. It doesn’t matter whether the work is ‘essential’ to the fighting of coronavirus or operation of essential services.

For legal advice on commercial matters relating to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak including employment, commercial contracts, corporate finance, and commercial property, get in touch with Farleys. You can contact us by email or by calling 0845 287 0939.