Open All Hours – Greater flexibility with site opening hours for UK construction

By Vijay Bange

Throughout the lockdown in the UK, the construction industry has been allowed to remain open for business providing that compliance with the Public Health England measures is maintained. However, most national house builders at least had taken a decision to close sites. Boris Johnson on Sunday 10th May, in his long awaited press briefing on the potential relaxation of social distancing road map, made clear that those in construction and manufacturing should go back to work, if they could.

The distancing restrictions will require those at sites to plan their works to ensure compliance with the still in force social distancing measures, and to also consider that other safety requirements also need to be put in place. Adherence to safety at work guidance remains paramount. Sites will be a different place to how they were before. The net effect will be that works may take longer, and potentially there will be risks of delays to delivery of projects. Contractors will need to do what they can to mitigate this risk.

It is perhaps unsurprising that the government may need to intervene further to help. On 13th May the Minister for Housing, Communities and Local Government notified that provisions will be made for extension of site working hours to help factor the change in working practices required for safe working arising from the social distancing measures. Furthermore, also so as to reduce the burden on public transport, presumably to enable contractors to work in shifts at sites. Now developers and contractors can apply to extend site working hours to 21:00 hours, Monday to Saturday. Planners should not refuse any such requests without compelling reasons. These new, but temporary measures, will stay in place for a year (13 May 2021).

This is a useful, and practical step that may alleviate to some extent the problems faced at sites under the current social distancing measures.