Travis Perkins and Marshalls bosses say 10 days requirement needs to be relaxed now
Travis Perkins and Marshalls is calling on the government to rethink its strategy on the pingdemic and make construction exempt from the self-isolation rules.
Last Friday, the CLC told the government to accelerate the relaxation of covid-19 rules on self-isolating and warned that projects are beginning to buckle under a soaring number of staff absences.
It said ministers should bring forward “as soon as possible” the 16 August cut-off date after which double-vaccinated people will be exempt from self-isolating if they are ‘pinged’ by the NHS covid-19 app.
Now the chief operating officer of the UK’s biggest building materials supplier Travis Perkins, which last year had revenues of more than £6bn and employs over 20,000 people, said the government needed to “look again” at the list of workers that can be made exempt from full self-isolation if they are alerted by NHS test and trace.
Frank Elkins added: “We are disappointed that our colleagues have not been included on the list.
“Having worked hard to put in place measures that safeguard our staff while they have played such a vital role in helping to maintain essential services that are so crucial to keeping us all dry, warm, safe and secure, we urge the government to look again at the broader construction supply chain and its importance to the country at large.”
And the chief executive of Marshalls said the rules were now starting to hit the £470m turnover business.
Martyn Coffey added: “After the challenges in 2020, no one could have accurately predicted the shape of demand in 2021.
“This demand continues to grow and the effects of covid, in particular, the ‘self-isolation’ practices are now beginning to bite within the Marshalls business.
“We have gone above and beyond government guidelines to keep our people safe. What we are now seeing is a very high incidence of absence, due mainly to self-isolation through NHS Test and Trace, and this is compromising our ability to operate.
“What is most challenging is the volatile nature and the inability to plan for this random alerting. As we support our colleagues to self-isolate, it is putting increasing pressure on those who are attending work resulting in an increasing concern about the mental health and wellbeing of these individuals who are carrying additional workloads.
“If the construction manufacturing sector could be categorised as ‘essential’ it would be a significant help to maintaining production levels. This would mean that colleagues who have been double jabbed could be exempted from self-isolation in the period from now until the [16 August] rule change.”
The chief executive of the Builders Merchants Federation said that for many of his members, the pingdemic was the worst period of the ongoing pandemic.
John Newcomb added: “With many staff going into isolation after being pinged by the NHS Covid app, builders’ merchants and building materials suppliers and manufacturers are facing a huge challenge.
“The past two to four weeks have been described as the most challenging of the entire pandemic by some members. The supply chain is extremely stretched on all fronts. An ideal situation would be to pull the exemption date forward for the sector.”
One regional builders merchant said it was operating on a skeleton basis, given many of its staff were now heading off on summer holidays as well.
Paul Bence, managing director of Cheltenham-based independent builders’ merchant George Bence Group, added: “Currently, 15% of our workforce have been affected by self-isolation this week. None of them have tested positive for covid-19.”
Ministers met yesterday to sign off additional emergency testing sites for workplaces in England hit hard by the pingdemic, so more workers can avoid the requirement to self-isolate for 10 days.