Yesterday, the newly appointed BEIS Minister Kwasi Kwarteng issued a letter to the construction sector to reaffirm the position that they can continue to work during lockdown. Here is the letter in full (with the corrected date):

Twitter and Linkedin has been drowning in this letter since it’s publication as the sector seeks to maintain it’s open status during lockdown.

It’s worth noting that this letter is almost a copy-and-paste exercise, with an almost-identical letter being published by the then BEIS Minister Alok Sharma earlier on in 2020 during the first lockdown. This letter was also held up by a few days due to the fluid nature of the debate around lockdown restrictions and the moving of Ministers between departments.

There is nothing new in this letter, and simply reiterates the open status of the construction and RMI sectors. The letter does, however, leave the door open to the potential for new restrictions and guidance changes with the second-to-last sentence. I am told that this letter does not mean a closed door and discussion within Government remains ongoing about whether to tighten restrictions further. Guidance can change at very short notice so it is worth keeping a regular check on the guidance in case changes are made.

Whilst there remains debate about whether it is right to be working in homes given the seriousness of the situation, the other major issue that is quickly coming to a head is the issue of sales in the home and combatting the installers who are not following the guidance. Both Certass and the GGF have come out publicly and informed their members that sales in the home and private gardens cannot go ahead. All sales activity has to be done online and remotely, and showrooms have to be closed. Door-to-door sales have also been banned. Yet, there are increasing reports of companies going against the guidance issued by Government and the aforementioned trading bodies and conducting sales activities that have been banned during the lockdown.

Companies who are trying to do the right thing and are abiding by the guidance are becoming increasingly frustrated at the seeming lack of enforceability of the rules and companies flouting the rules and continuing to conduct in-person sales. There is growing momentum behind a need to ensure that all sales activity in the sector is done as per the guidance issued by Government and trade bodies. This lockdown is likely to last a long time. It would be a tragedy to see good businesses hit difficulties whilst trying to do their bit to battle the pandemic, whilst others blatantly ignore the rules. From the discussions I continue to have with key industry figures, I expect a push from all sides to tighten up enforcement of the guidance, with growing calls for action to be taken against companies caught flouting the rules.

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