The so-called ‘pingdemic’, where workers are being told to isolate after being ‘pinged’ by the NHS COVID-19 app, is having a significant effect on the construction industry’s workforce.
The sector has been hit badly in recent weeks, leading to site delays and further adding to the labour shortage that many contractors are currently trying to deal with.
In the first week in July, in excess of 500,000 people were pinged in the week ending 7 July – a 46% increase on the week before and although specific numbers are not available by industry sector, many contractors have reported COVID-related staff absences. With final lockdown restrictions lifted in England on 19 July, the industry is bracing itself for sick leave and self-isolation absences to rise further.
Neil Sherreard, deputy chairman of construction company, Beard, told RCI: “The industry could be in for a rough month or so until the guidance changes in mid-August.
“At Beard, we’ve seen an increase in COVID-related absences in the last week alone, from our own people and supply chain.
“The issue is there is something of a perfect storm in many respects. Not only are people having to isolate, but at the same time, many are looking to take well-earned holidays. Additionally, a lack of materials and the fact that European labour is returning home and not coming back, increases the challenge to deliver for our customers.
“Of course, we’re monitoring the situation closely and currently, we’re able to cover absent staff. However, I do expect COVID cases to increase.
“So, it’s important now to plan ahead and be nimble. Work with your supply chains and be proactive about anticipating absences in the short-term and cover any gaps as best as possible, and ride this latest storm over the next month to six weeks.”
Samantha Randall, an Associate Solicitor with Palmers, who specialises in employment law, said: “Dealing with sick leave – which includes NHS mandatory notifications to self-isolate – can be a minefield for companies, with the threat of tribunals and compensation if not handled correctly.
“ACAS guidelines state that if a worker is not able to work because they’re ill with COVID-19 or cannot work from home while self-isolating, they must get any sick pay they’re entitled to. Some workers may be required to self-isolate more than once during the COVID-19 pandemic but employers should support them in the same way each time.”
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