Following calls from the construction sector, the Welsh Government made a further update on 21st October to clarify that “work carried out in people’s homes, for example by tradespeople, can continue as long as it is carried out in a safe way and both the worker and household members are well and have no symptoms of coronavirus.”
The announcement from Mark Drakeford, the Welsh First Minister, that Wales will go into a two-week ‘firebreak’ national lockdown from 6pm on 23rd October brought with it a lot confusion for those operating within the construction sector, with regards to whether or not they are able to carry out work in people’s homes during that period.
Whilst the first version of the Welsh Government’s Frequently Asked Questions guidance stated work in homes must stop, an update on 20th October explained: “Work carried out in people’s homes, for example by tradespeople, can continue as long as it is managed in a safe way and both worker and household members are well and have no symptoms of coronavirus.”
Whilst this is welcome news for those operating in Wales, the guidance does go on to caution: “However, we recommend that people consider whether the work can be safely deferred until after this short lockdown.”
This mixed messaging of giving the green light to continue work but at the same time advising to defer any work for two weeks was picked up on by Mark Spragg, NFRC Welsh Regional Manager, who explained: “The Welsh Government’s last-minute U-turn on their guidance for working in people’s homes will create widespread confusion for construction firms and homeowners alike. “By officially allowing work to continue but at the same time recommending people to defer this work, sends mixed messages and puts an unfair burden onto tradespeople. The Welsh Government should urgently clarify their position.”
But the main confusion centred around the very next section of the Frequently Asked Questions guidance, which under the heading: “I have already started building, repair or maintenance work in someone’s home, can I complete that work?” stated: “Not unless the work is urgent or it would be unsafe to leave the work incomplete. You are able to attend the household to ensure that environment is safe for the householders, collect any of your belongings, for example tools. You should make arrangements to do this as soon as possible and ensure that you spend the least amount of time at the household.”
Prior to the most recent update, Ifan Glyn, Director of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) Cymru, called for a quick conclusion to the confusion: “Builders and their clients have been left in limbo. The originally published Welsh Government Frequently Asked Questions guidance told them that work in people’s homes would need to stop. Without warning, the guidance was yesterday (20th October) changed. A section in the guidance now tells them that work can continue, yet the very next section contradicts this and tells them that they will need to down tools. Our members want to do the right thing, but to be able to do so, they need an urgent answer from Welsh Government on this fundamental question.”
The Welsh Government listened to these calls and made a further update to the guidance on 21st October to clarify their position, and under the question: “I have already started building, repair or maintenance work in someone’s home, can I complete that work?” that section now states: “Work underway can continue as long as it is managed in a safe way and both the worker and household members are well and have no symptoms of coronavirus. However, we recommend that people consider whether the work can be safely deferred until after this short lockdown.”
So, whilst the Welsh Government has still left the final decision down to the tradesperson, there is now clarity that they are free to work in people’s homes, as long as it is safe to do so and work is carried out in a safe way.
View the NFRC’s guidance for working safely in people’s homes here
View the Welsh Government’s Frequently asked Questions guidance here
Visit the NFRC’s coronavirus hub