Jobs will have been shut for two weeks by time stalled schemes might get going again

Mace has said it is suspending work at its sites until next Tuesday at least.

The firm initially imposed a 48 hour stoppage last Tuesday which it reviewed on Thursday before extending the suspenion until tomorrow morning. But the firm said this would now last into next week.

Chief executive Mark Reynolds added: “The government has been clear that construction work should continue where it can do so in line with guidance from Public Health England. Mace has been working over the last week to understand what measures we would need to introduce in order to open our projects safely. Although it is clear that some projects can operate under these conditions, we are not yet certain we can do so without putting people at risk.

“As such, Mace will now introduce a rolling, temporary one-week suspension of all site activity. This suspension will now be in place until at least Tuesday 7 April. It will be reviewed regularly as the situation develops to understand what, if any, work can be carried out safely. Regrettably, that means that no construction work will take place this week, other than safety critical work or activities required to protect or secure construction projects.”

Many of Mace’s sites are in London and the firm has been looking at how to get workers to jobs without them cramming onto the capital’s Tube network.

Earlier this month, Reynolds said the cost of shutting all of its sites would be up to £10m a week – five times the hit it was estimating from a no-deal Brexit. The firm employs around 15,000 people on its 90 UK sites.

He added: “If sites get shut for two weeks, four weeks, firms will get over it. But if they’re shut for the rest of the year, for example, there will be massive lay-offs and all sorts of things will happen.”

This morning, construction minister Nadhim Zahawi said contractors keeping open their sites were doing the right thing as the industry began a second week wondering whether to keep sites open or not.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Zahawi said businesses that following the rules were “unfairly” being criticised for following them correctly.

He said: “It has been disappointing that those who feel the need to criticise any and all private sector work have started attacking companies for staying open when their work cannot be done remotely. It does not matter whether they appear on that key worker list, what matters is that they follow the rules our government has set out.

“These businesses need to be defended, because we need to minimise the damage to our economy where possible and be ready to spring back into action as soon as this lockdown is over. There will always be some work that cannot be done from home, whether it is construction or packing boxes in an Amazon warehouse – but we still need houses built and for deliveries to be made.”

And he added: “We cannot allow those who hate the private sector to use this crisis as an excuse to pile unfair criticism on them. We should stand up for those that are correctly following the rules. They are the same companies we will need to help fund our recovery when we finally get through this.”