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Builders in mayday plea for pay day

  • Date: Monday 27th April 2020
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The government’s economic response to Coronavirus stepped up a notch last Monday as their Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme went live - allowing businesses across the UK to claim towards staff wages.

Under the scheme by the UK Government, employers will be able to pay their employees 80 per cent of their usual wage, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. A huge help in these difficult and uncertain times.

According to the latest study by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), more than 70 per cent of UK firms had furloughed staff by the time the scheme went live, a jump from 66 per cent the previous week.

As expected, the helpline was flooded with over 140,000 applications from firms within the first 10 hours. With payday just around the corner, many firms across Scotland will be hoping the government grant hits their bank so that they can cover employee wages on time.

Unfortunately that’s the worry for many industries and sectors. How much cash do they have in the bank and how long will it last through lockdown?

The latest sector to issue a stark warning regarding cash flow has been the construction industry. The Scottish Building Federation (SBF), surveyed its members and the feedback and numbers are worrying to say the least.

They revealed that more than three-quarters of all construction businesses have seen all cash flow stop, whilst 95 per cent have had to furlough at least 80 per cent of their staff.

Not only that, the SBF’s survey also showed that only 36% are eligible for the £10,000 grant funding offered through the Small Business Bonus Scheme.

With 98% of sites controlled by SBF members currently closed, the industry is on its knees and certainly draws comparison to that of other hard hit sectors including airlines and the hospitality industry.

So much so, construction chiefs are calling on the Scottish Government to offer support similar to that given to other sectors, like the hospitality industry, forced to close due to Coronavirus. It’s no wonder, when you look at the figures.

The construction industry employs over 170,000 workers directly, compared to just over 200,000 within hospitality, however it is receiving no specific support compared to hospitality getting 100 per cent business rate relief, along with a number of other grants including a Hardship Fund and Emergency Business Grant schemes.

It’s worrying times, especially when construction within Scotland makes up 10 per cent of the economy. When you read the most recent analysis that the economy is set to shrink by up to a third, it’s not difficult to see who may be the real losers in this crisis.

Unlike hospitality, construction firms can’t suddenly change what services they provide. More so, when we do get out the other side of this crisis, construction – due to its very nature – will not see money immediately come in, whereas restaurants and pubs will immediately be able to throw open their doors and welcome the paying public.

That’s not to say though that the hospitality industry has it easy or that most will come out the other side relatively unscathed.

Yes, they have various grants that will help them, however many from within the industry have cried foul in regards to who qualifies for help – especially for those small businesses operating within a city centre environment.

As I touched upon last week in my column, the Emergency Business Grant scheme was brought in to support hospitality businesses, providing £25,000 for the first property they own, with an additional 75 per cent for every additional venue.

However, with those who qualify for help calculated through ratable values, businesses with a value of over £50,999 will miss out – meaning many based within Scottish city centres will be affected.

It is an unfortunate system for calculating grants, with Glasgow and Edinburgh one of the highest cities in the UK for ratable values. However it is good to see hospitality leaders come out fighting to push for more help for those businesses adversely affected.

With it looking likely that hospitality businesses will be the last to open, like the construction sector, hospitality will need all the help it can get during this crisis.

Laugh (134 words)

We all need something to cheer ourselves up just now, but I was surprised to learn this week that for some people that means getting dressed up to the nines for their weekly trip to the supermarket. 


What used to be a dreaded chore for many has now become the only event in their social calendar, so they’re using it as an excuse to get out of their comfy clothes and are dressing to impress. 


With trips to restaurants and parties now a distant memory, it’s understandable we’re looking for a reason to make an effort with our appearance, so why not go all out for going to get your messages? 


I don’t think I’ll be donning a bowtie for a trip to Tesco any time soon, but whatever gets you through the day. 



I was shocked to see footage from inside the University Wishaw Hospital featured on the BBC this week, showing first-hand accounts of those battling coronavirus and the frontline staff caring for them. 


The short film features patients both young and old who have contracted the virus and the effects it’s had on them. While there are positive stories of patients who have recovered, we also see the devastating impact the loss of lives is having on hospital staff. 


While coronavirus news is virtually impossible to escape, it’s easy to get caught up in the statistics and forget the real-life impact it’s having on people across the country.


This footage shows the harsh reality that our NHS staff are facing every day and the challenging conditions they’re working in. They truly are heroes. 



There’s been a lot of talk of the ‘new normal’ in recent weeks, and how the current pandemic will affect our working lives not only in the short-term, but long after lockdown restrictions have been lifted. 


For many, it’s shown that working from home is possible, removing the need to commute to an office every day. As a result, many cities across the UK have seen pollution levels plummet, leading people to wonder whether home-working will become the norm in future. 


The Scottish Greens have asked whether returning to our daily routines and commuting as we did before when things return to normal is the right thing to do, or if we should change our ways for the good of the environment.


There’s a lot to be said for working from home, but to suggest we abandon traditional office working completely is a step too far.


Many are struggling with feeling isolated right now and can’t wait to get back to work so they can be around people again.  Whether you love or loathe your day job, I’m sure most would say we enjoy interacting with our colleagues, at least some of the time!


Working from home definitely takes away a lot of the fun parts of a nine to five. There’s not the same type of day to day banter with your colleagues, and for many, having drinks on a Friday afternoon over video-call is no substitute for the real thing. 


I think more workplaces will introduce homeworking and flexible hours as an option, but I’ve no doubt lots of us will be flocking back to the office when lockdown is over, desperate to get back to some kind of normality. 

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