The support package for the self-employed announced by the Chancellor on 26th March is welcome relief for the thousands of self-employed workers in the construction industry, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).
Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “Construction workers across the country will now be taking a collective sigh of relief knowing they will now be protected in the same way that employees will be if they lose work due to COVID-19. I am delighted that the Chancellor has heeded our calls to be generous with his offer to the self-employed, who make up almost 40% of those working in the construction industry.
“Building companies will now also be able to close sites to protect workers and public health without having to worry about the losses faced by self-employed workers on those sites. We now urge the Treasury and HMRC to ensure that all support packages are up and running as soon as physically possible.”
The FMB had earlier in the day argued that only emergency and critical construction work should be allowed to continue, calling for help to be extended to SME building firms and the self-employed in order to protect the health and livelihoods of the industry’s workforce.
New research conducted by the organisation had found that:
– More than half (60%) of builders have already ceased between 76% and 100% of their work;
– Of those, 80% are in the domestic repair, renovation and maintenance sector.
– Almost two-thirds (63%) of builders believe that the Government is not doing enough to support them;
– 80% of builders would apply for the £25,000 grant, currently only available to retail, leisure and hospitality firms, if it were made available to them;
– Of those 303 firms who said that they would apply, they employ a total of just under 2,000 people (1,956) and most commonly said that the grant would help them survive another two to three months.
Brian said: “Most FMB members have already taken the lead and ceased the majority of their work. It is almost impossible to follow Public Health England’s social distancing advice on many sites, and it would therefore be safer to close them.
“However, the Government must ensure that these firms don’t face a cliff-edge while doing the right thing and should ensure that grants of £25,000 are made available and that ample support is extended to the self-employed who represent 37% of construction jobs.”
He concluded: “No one should have to choose between feeding their family and protecting their health and yet that is the position many builders currently find themselves in. There is a clear appetite for greater Government support among builders, as demonstrated by the fact that 80% would apply if grants were available. Later today, the Chancellor must avoid any halfway house measures and ensure that he delivers equal support for the self-employed as those on PAYE. This package needs to cover the breadth of people who are self-employed not just a select few.”