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Construction

As businesses continue to adjust to how the Coronavirus outbreak impacts works on construction projects, issues could arise that rapidly escalate into disputes between businesses.

Can construction continue?

The Government has acknowledged that construction work plays an important role and can continue if it can be done in accordance with the social distancing guidelines wherever possible.

Full details of those guidelines can be found here.

In summary:

  • workers should only attend work if they are well and no member of their household is self-isolating in line with government ‘stay at home’ guidance.
  • workers should maintain a 2-metre (3 step) distance from others. If a 2-metre distance cannot be maintained, they should work side by side, or facing away from each other, rather than face to face if possible.
  • where face-to-face contact is essential, this should be kept to 15 minutes or less wherever possible
  • workers should wash their hands each time before getting in to enclosed machinery.
  • consider adding additional pop-up hand-washing facilities.
  • workers should work together in teams that are as small as possible rather than mixing crew members.
  • workers should keep the windows of enclosed machinery or enclosed spaces open for ventilation.
  • the inside of cabs should be regularly cleaned and workers should avoid touching their faces.

The Construction Leadership Council has published advice on how the government guidance can be followed and details are here.

Contractual Obligations

Contractual obligations and the procedures that govern the conduct of the parties are not necessarily suspended by this type of external crisis.  Communication is important as the relevant parties focus on practical solutions where problems arise in order to try to work things out in a spirit of mutual goodwill and cooperation. However, parties should always remember that the contract remains in force and should be followed (or amended by agreement) to avoid the possibility of legal problems arising in the future.

Contractual notices also need to be issued to ensure they can be relied upon later. For example:

  • Giving notice where there is likely to be a delay to the progress of the works and the impact on the completion date and where an extension of time may be sought;
  • Issuing payment notices of the amount due and payable;
  • Issuing pay less notices where it is intended to pay less than the value of the works;
  • Issuing notice of intention to suspend works within 7 days where payment has not been received by the final date for payment.

In the UK, the legal rules are quite strict and therefore limited in scope and effect. There is no general doctrine allowing a court or adjudicator to equitably adjust rights and obligations under a contract in response to external events, however unexpected.

It is as important now as it ever has been to have a full understanding of the contractual rights and obligations under a contract so businesses can take a considered approach to any arrangements that are agreed.

If you have any issues regarding a construction or building project that you would like to discuss please contact Richard Millard, email rmillard@geoffreyleaver.com or call 01908 689382 or 07985 069920

Construction & Development Team

  • Richard Millard Managing Partner
    Construction & Development 01908 689382 | 07985 069920
    Richard has over 20 years’ experience acting for clients in the construction industry,  providing pragmatic advice to developers, contractors, sub-contractors, design and construction professionals, housing associations, smaller builders and homeowners.

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