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YORhub conducted a survey in January-February 2021 to understand the views of companies appointed to the YORbuild2, YORbuild Major Works, YORcivil2, YORcivil Major Works and YORconsult2 frameworks.

The survey questions were split into four areas:

  • Brexit
  • Covid-19
  • Modern Slavery
  • Business Continuity Planning

Our intention is to understand how these issues are affecting these companies and what measures they were implementing to mitigate the effects of these risks which could subsequently affect YORhub’s frameworks if they were not managed correctly.  This could include the direct legislative requirements as part of YORhub’s framework management as well as the effect on its clients if projects could not be fulfilled as expected.

Participation

Of the 115 contractors and consultants across all of the frameworks, 41 responded to the survey request.  The responses were split between YORbuild2 and YORbuild Major Works (13 responses), YORcivil2 and YORcivil Major Works (13 responses) and YORconsult2 (15 responses) so provide a representation across all of the frameworks.

Summary of Results

The survey was designed to gather qualitative information relating to key risks affecting their organisations.  This meant that participants provided detailed responses of the risks they are facing and the mitigating measures they are undertaking to overcome them. However, the findings have been quantified into graphs where possible in the summary below.

Question 1: Brexit

Following on from the UK and the EU formalising their future relationship with effect from 1 January 2021, what impact is your company expecting there to be on:

  1. Labour availability and working practices?
  2. Materials?
  3. Delivery times?
  4. Tender pricing?

The sizes of the impacts of these four factors that can be attributed to Brexit are summarised in the graphs below. Of these four factors, the information suggests that Brexit has had the greatest impact on tender pricing (59%). Responses which could be classified as “Impact” for tender pricing were highlighted by five YORbuild2/YORbuild Major Works companies, five YORcivil2/YORcivil Major Works companies and none of the YORconsult2 companies.

The YORhub framework companies have attributed this impact on tender pricing to factors such as materials price increases (notably steel, other metals, timber and insulation), currency fluctuations, tariffs, cash flow and global staff wages. Regarding materials price rises, respondents highlighted steel as the most difficult resource to access, as this was noted by eight companies (split as four YORbuild2/YORbuild Major Works companies, three YORcivil2/YORcivil Major Works companies and one YORconsult2 company).

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Graph 1a - Labour Availability and Working Practices Graph 1b - Materials

Graph 1c - Delivery Times Graph 1d - Tender Pricing

Question 2: Brexit

What measures have you and/or your supply chains already taken or plan to implement to deal with the risks or opportunities involved?

Respondents varied greatly regarding their answers to this question, which suggests that every company is utilising different measures depending on what is specifically suitable for their particular organisation. Mitigating measures to manage the risks from Brexit covering key areas of interest included:

  • Risk assessments
  • Financial reviews, including increasing credit availability and buying Euro currency in advance
  • Supply chain measures, including signing long-term agreements, early orders and generation of buffer stock
  • Long-term supply agreements
  • UK sourcing, production and manufacture
  • Employment and skills recruitment planning
  • Assistance to EU workforce members to remain in the UK
  • Increased local workforce
  • Additional category management, including political, trends and market tracking
  • Utilising MMC/off-site forms of construction

Question 3: Covid-19

What additional effects from Covid-19 is your company expecting there to be on:

  1. Labour availability and working practices?
  2. Materials?
  3. Delivery times?
  4. Tender pricing?

The size of the impact of these four factors that can be attributed to Covid-19 is summarised in the graphs below. Of these four factors, Covid-19 has had the greatest impact equally on labour availability (39%) and materials (39%). The impact of Covid-19 safety measures on labour availability and working practices was documented by 24 respondents (nine YORbuild2/YORbuild Major Works companies, nine YORcivil2/YORcivil Major Works companies and six YORconsult2 companies). Respondents have attributed the impact on materials to price increases; timber was listed the most (five respondents split as four YORbuild2/YORbuild Major Works companies, one YORcivil2/YORcivil Major Works company and none of the YORconsult2 companies).

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Graph 3a - Labour Availability and Working Practices Graph 3b - Materials

Graph 3c - Delivery Times Graph 3d - Tender Pricing

Question 4: Covid-19

What measures have you and/or your supply chains already taken or plan to implement to deal with the risks or opportunities involved?

Respondents varied greatly regarding their answers to this question, which suggests that every company is utilising different measures depending on what is suitable for their particular organisation. Mitigating measures to manage the risks from Covid-19 covered key areas of interest, including:

  • Covid secure measures in accordance with government guidance, such as appropriate health and safety measures and adherence to self-isolation requirements
  • Remote and/or flexible working to allow employees to work from home and/or unsociable hours
  • Travel restrictions
  • Increased IT infrastructure for employees, including new communication platforms
  • Technology e.g. bodycams for site inspections, electronic paperwork and inflationary calculators within cost plans and bids
  • Plans, policies and procedures including risk assessments, workforce succession planning and supply chain monitoring
  • Strategic assessments, including reviewing which sectors to focus on and whether to put certain projects on hold
  • Increased communication channels, including training employees and closer working relationships with clients and the supply chain
  • Supply chain measures, including signing long-term agreements, early orders and generation of buffer stock
  • Utilising MMC/off-site forms of construction

Question 5: Modern Slavery

What measures has your company implemented to ensure modern slavery is not occurring throughout your supply chains (including in labour, plant and supplies)? 

The key areas where companies have implemented modern slavery prevention methods are summarised in the graph below. One of the key areas that is likely to improve working conditions is through the use of supply chain checks, both at the pre-qualification stage and on an ongoing basis.  The majority of respondents noted this (25 responses) in their responses but further communication by YORhub may help to increase this number further. The information suggests that the companies are investing resources into implementing documentation across their organisations including, plans, policies and procedures (32 responses), risk assessments (five responses) and terms and conditions (four responses).

As well as written communication, they are also distributing information to their workforce, clients and support base through other communication channels (16 responses), such as training, webinars and marketing materials. A small number of companies documented that they inform theirs and their supply chain’s workforce regarding whistleblowing policies (eight responses). It may be that other organisations also provide assistance with whistleblowing but did not document it in the survey; this may require further investigation. The companies who do utilise whistleblowing policies are using various methods, including telephone hotlines and mobile phone apps.

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Graph 5 - Modern Slavery Eradication Measures

YORhub framework companies are affiliated with a number of collaborations, initiatives and standards to eradicate modern slavery, including:

  • Athens Ethical Principles
  • Be Fair accreditation
  • BES 6001 Responsible Sourcing of Construction Products
  • BES 6002 The Ethical Labour Standard
  • Constructionline
  • CSCS/CPCS cards checks
  • Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) – Construction Protocol
  • Home Office Advisory Group on Migrant Status and Right To Work Checks
  • ISO 20400 Sustainable Procurement
  • ISO 9001 Quality Management
  • Living Wage employer
  • Stronger Together construction programme
  • Supply Chain Sustainability School

Question 6: Modern Slavery

Please provide details of any further measures we can collaborate with you on to tackle and prevent modern slavery?

YORhub framework companies proposed various improvement measures to eradicate modern slavery, which can be categorised under the following factors listed in the graph below. The information suggests that contractors would be receptive to further collaboration with YORhub which may include collaboration on existing initiatives (nine responses), funding to support these initiatives (one response) and utilising established communication channels to provide training, webinars and general distribution of information (three responses).  The companies are also willing to accommodate tighter controls within future framework requirements (seven responses). One company is receptive to collaborating on emerging technologies, such as new modern slavery identification software.

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Graph 6 - Collaborative Measures

Question 7: Business Continuity Plan

In relation to your Business Continuity Plan, please describe how issues such as Brexit, Covid-19, cyber-attacks and modern slavery are addressed?

The key areas where YORhub framework companies have addressed Business Continuity Planning are summarised in the graph below.  The information suggests that the companies are investing resources into implementing documentation across their organisations including, plans, policies and procedures (27 responses), risk assessments, including disaster recovery planning (28 responses) and terms and conditions (two responses). Key figures within the organisations are aware of their roles and responsibilities to manage business continuity planning (17 responses).

As well as written communication, they are also distributing information to their workforce, clients and support base through other communication channels (13 responses), such as training, webinars and marketing materials. A small number of companies documented that they inform theirs and their supply chain’s workforce regarding whistleblowing policies (two responses).  It may be that other organisations also provide this but did not document it in the survey; this may require further investigation. The companies who do utilise whistleblowing policies are using various methods, including telephone hotlines and mobile phone apps. Alongside these technologies, almost half of the respondents also noted that they have been investing further into their IT infrastructure (19 responses), including using communication platforms and increasing network security.

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Graph 7 - Business Continuity Planning

YORhub framework companies are affiliated with a number of Business Continuity Planning collaborations, initiatives and standards including:

  • CITB Site Safety Plus
  • Cyber Essentials Plus
  • ISO 22301 Business Continuity Management
  • ISO 27001 Information Security Management
  • ISO 44001 Collaborative Business Relationship Management
  • ISO 9001 Quality Management
  • ISO/IEC 27031 ICT Continuity Plan

Question 8: General

Please provide any further comments in relation to Brexit, Covid-19, modern slavery and Business Continuity Planning

The responses to this question were limited and generally aimed to provide assurance that their company was implementing available measures to mitigate against the risks of Brexit, Covid-19, modern slavery and Business Continuity Planning.

Conclusion

The responses suggest that YORhub framework companies are assessing the risks of Brexit, Covid-19, modern slavery and Business Continuity Planning of their own accord and are implementing measures to mitigate the risks they identify. Overall, Covid-19 and Brexit have had an impact on companies. Regarding Covid-19 for instance, the effects of implementing Construction Leadership Council’s site operating procedures potentially increasing programme and cost (the extent of which is project specific) should already be taken into account during the tendering process and should not change unless new legislation is implemented.

The effects of Brexit however are yet to be clearly defined and therefore, this will require continued observation whilst the relationship between the United Kingdom and European Union is being formalised further in both the short-term and long-term. Currently, due to good planning by firms, price increases on the whole are being successfully minimised by contractors but clients may need to prepare for increased tender prices due to the mid-term to long-term effects of Brexit on material prices. This may be particularly evident in the long-term pricing of timber and steel so these materials should be monitored closely.

As this was a qualitative survey, it may be that some of these companies are conducting further mitigating measures across these four key areas but did not document them in their responses.  For example, this may apply to the implementation of whistleblowing policies and the appointment of key roles and responsibilities within their organisations. The purpose of this report is to provide an interpretation of the responses received; therefore, further investigation may be required to clarify the information in greater detail and its implications.

In conclusion, YORhub framework managers have close working relationships with the companies appointed to their frameworks and there is the opportunity to discuss the risks further as well as the potential opportunities they present to both parties.