Coronavirus: House-builders down tools leaving self-employed with no pay

Many building sites have now closed following the government lockdown. Picture: ANDREW HENDRY

Many building sites have now closed following the government lockdown. Picture: ANDREW HENDRY - Credit: Archant

Work has stopped on most building sites across East Anglia despite the government not banning construction work – leaving many self-employed contractors without pay.

Local and national building companies have ceased working on sites around Norfolk and Suffolk due to fears for the safety of their workers.

Abel Homes, based in Watton, has closed all of its sites. Paul Legrice, managing director at Abel Homes, said: “With the safety of our employees and contractors in mind, we have stopped work on all of our sites. All of our direct employees have been paid until the end of March, and we are currently reviewing our options beyond this date.”

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One of the UKs biggest house-builders Taylor Wimpey, responsible for building 10,000 homes a year including developments in Framlingham and Attleborough, is also closing all of its sites.

A statement on the company website says: ‘We are closing our building sites in response to Government guidelines announced on 23rd March 2020 to ensure that we do all we can as a business to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Our absolute priority will be to carry this out safely and securely, while continuing to support our customers and employees.

‘We would like to apologise if this decision inconveniences you. However, we hope you understand that our first priority has to be your safety and that of our employees and contractors. We also believe we have a wider responsibility to the communities within which we work, old and new.’

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The downing of tools means many self-employed construction workers will lose income. Because of their status as self-employed they are also unable to claim statutory sick pay.

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Currently, the government has made it easier for the self-employed to claim universal credit. But chancellor Rishi Sunak said the government is working on a package to support them further.

However some major house-builders such as Redrow – which has a development in Haverhill – are still continuing to work on some of their sites. Mervyn Lambert, a plant hire firm based in Garboldisham, is still hiring out machinery necessary for certain essential work including agriculture, telecommunications, gas and electrical works.

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