We have received various calls from people we work with in regards to our understanding of how the construction industry is managing throughout this period and we thought it would be worthwhile providing you with our findings to date.
Contract Scotland supply all areas of construction, property, engineering and office services with staff both on a temporary and permanent basis. Ordinarily we have a steady freelance workforce with seasonal peaks throughout summer and holiday season. As lockdown commenced, 70% of our freelance workers were stood down and their contract paused. The remainder of those still working, were able to work from home or had work on critical water and rail infrastructure projects. The majority of job roles retained were commercial positions. Most of our Site Engineers, General Foremen and Site Managers/Agents, support staff were stood down. This has been the case now for nearly 3 weeks.
On a permanent basis, all of the job vacancies we were working on were essentially put on hold until the landscape becomes clearer and clients can realign timescales for hiring.
With the UK Government confirming another 3 weeks of lockdown, we do not anticipate there being much movement by way of work and projects resuming during this time.
Job Retention Scheme
Further to the Chancellor's announcement at the end of March relating to the Self Employment Income Support Scheme, Contract Scotland has taken the decision to furlough all qualifying PAYE Temporary Workers who have been temporarily stood down as a result of the Covid 19 outbreak. Whilst this is not a legal obligation on a recruitment business, we feel it’s the right thing to do and we have decided to pay the wages of furloughed temporary workers ahead of receiving those monies from the government.
What have we learned?
Social distancing measures have become a main focus for companies just now and if the construction sector return to work before all restrictions are lifted, you might find some of the following measures in place to protect the health and wellbeing of workers:
Trends post lockdown
We anticipate that not everyone will be required back to work on day 1 of the restrictions being lifted, but we do expect that freelance employment will increase at a quicker rate than permanent employment. This is based on the trends of the last recession, the need for projects to be completed, a benefit to companies in recruiting a flexible workforce and the need to hire quickly versus going through a permanent recruitment process.
There has been some early indicators of pay cuts both on a permanent and temporary basis. Contractors are likely to absorb additional costs of contracts not running to the original end dates, of providing increased welfare facilities and PPE. Some have already required staff to take pay cuts and a few have asked that our freelance contractors take a pay reduction. This may be something to prepare for, but as the weeks go on, we will find out more.
We also expect there to be an increased demand for commercial positions to be filled in order to look after contractual claims on projects.
Contract Scotland will continue to liaise with businesses to understand how and when they plan to return to work beyond the restrictions being lifted and we will communicate with you as soon as possible. We want to let you know we are here for you if you would like any further updates and we can let you know as much as we do. We are all in this together and we hope that you stay safe during these difficult times.
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