The workforce has never looked like this before - we all know about furloughing, redundancies and contractors having work cut short.

But while many of us have effectively transitioned to at-home working, for some industries, like construction and infrastructure, that’s completely impossible. Just try building a house or laying railway tracks remotely.

The workers with those skills are now sat at home, twiddling their thumbs, waiting for projects to rebegin. Inevitably, work will resume on projects large and small, and workforces will need to be re-mobilised. Many business across the UK considering how they will do this as swiftly as safely as possible.

We know that the most accurate view of industry challenges will come from those working within it; so we partnered with the Construction Industry Council and its Chief Executive Graham Watts OBE to canvass the opinion of almost 800 CIC members. Two main subjects raised were fears around reigniting capital investment (36%); closely followed by issues around supply chains and gaining access to materials (32%). (Logistics, i.e. getting materials delivered to sites quickly, was the primary concern for 8% of respondents.)

But the third biggest issue, at 10%, was around the workforce: namely, rehiring a now dispersed workforce. This will ultimately include re-onboarding, background checking and payrolling at pace as large projects and programmes kick off again. Respondents referred to issues surrounding training and re-training due to lapsed certifications and qualifications. There will certainly be a need to address lapsed CPDs, key site requirements and key training courses. And none of this will be dealt with in a physical classroom, due to the need for social distancing.

Over 10% of respondents’ primary concerns didn’t fall into the four categories: amongst the diverse answers given were responses around the economy, client demand and cooperation, and immediate cashflow. There was also strong recognition of the need to protect and monitor workforces’ health status. With potentially hundreds of workers onsite in close proximity, the risk of a site-closing Covid-19 outbreak is high.

Restarting your workforce

The ask is substantial – but there are effective answers to hand. Combining technology with innovative workforce management and onboarding processes offer a number of options, so that businesses can source, hire and their workforces quickly, flexibly and safely.

Secure, remote onboarding

Capita has been supporting a number of companies to make sure workforces are ramped back up quickly to meet new demand. We are extremely proud to be currently partnering with the NHS to quickly and efficiently assess, vet, background check and onboard a significant number of the ‘returners’ to the NHS frontline.

Capita teams carry out all of this work in a secure, remote, online environment, removing the need to physically turn up at a single site office. These replicable processes allow businesses across a range of sectors to access, onboard and upskill their talent. Businesses can focus on core activities, easing considerable time and administration burden.

Training and compliance

In response to the ramp up of training/re-training aspects, Capita has developed a suite of online courses that are aligned to CSCS approved (Construction Skills Certification Scheme) requirements. These are in line and endorsed by Energy and Utility Skills (EUSR). We can also offer any bespoke training if needed.

Employee monitoring

Early detection of Covid-19 within workforces will be essential to ongoing safety. As one of the main symptoms of Covid-19 is a raised temperature, Capita are able to provide simple ‘plug and play’ thermal imaging cameras, which can be set up at the entrance to any site. This technology can be quickly set up and used to monitor large numbers of people by simply walking past the unit as they enter the site. If a raised temperature is detected, the system will alert the user and a decision can then be made to either restrict that person access to the site or follow up with other actions.

Social distancing

By incorporating a chip/sensor into all site passes, a simple and effective social distancing system can be used and adhered to during the working day. Sensors in the site passes are able to detect the presence of a nearby sensor (carried by another person) that is too close for a pre-set period of time, without any physical contact, setting off a warning sound or vibration. This proximity violation is recorded and can be used as a reminder to those involved or analysed at the end of the working day and reported on as part of an overall safety strategy.

It is critically important for us all to play our part in safely returning the UK to work. Some industries will lead the way and some industries will be affected more than others. It is essential that we instil confidence in our workforce as we move through this period and Capita will support UK businesses as much as it can.

Capita would like to thank Graham Watts OBE and his team at the Construction Industry Council who continue to do a fantastic job in improving the UK construction industry, by collectively representing and supporting the built environment professions – especially though this unprecedented time.

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