Persimmon becomes the third of the top housebuilders to announce remobilisation in the past two days.
Yesterday we reported that Vistry (Bovis and Linden) were beginning a phased resumption of works on Monday after several weeks of shutdown to avoid spreading the coronavirus.
Taylor Wimpey is reopening sites the following week.
Today Persimmon has declared that it too is ready to get sites back to work, all in accordance with the hew site operating procedures and social distancing measures.
Persimmon began closing its sites and sales offices on 25th March – continuing only ‘in certain limited instances to complete the construction of new homes to ensure that no customers were left homeless’. But it now reckons that it is safe to resume full site operations.
“The government has issued clear guidance that it sees construction as a vital element of the UK economy and that where sites can comply with the Construction Leadership Council's Standard Operating Procedures, then they should continue to operate,” it said. “Persimmon is keen to support the government in meeting this objective.”
Persimmon said that over the past three weeks it had ‘developed and tested a range of new site protocols to enable work to recommence, while ensuring that the necessary social distancing restrictions are strictly enforced’.
Like the other house-builders, Persimmon has continued sales activity with sales staff working from home, taking 820 gross private sales reservations in the five weeks ended 19th April 2020.
Other staff working from home have continued to progress planning permissions, technical drawings, procurement, liaison with subcontractors, and other work required to prepare sites for the restart of activity. These home working arrangements will continue for now.
Notably, Persimmon is not taking any advantage of government support schemes. Although 30% of employees have had no work to do, they have been sent home on full pay, at the company’s expense, without the benefit of the government's coronavirus job retention scheme.
Persimmon said that it was continuing to pay all suppliers and all taxes on time and had no plans to access any of the UK government's Covid-19 emergency funding programmes.
Chief executive David Jenkinson said: "The UK government has been very clear on the importance of the construction sector to the UK economy and its desire to see activity continue through the current period of crisis, provided appropriate public health measures are adopted.
"Nothing is more important to us than the health, safety and wellbeing of the public, our colleagues, sub-contractors and suppliers. Having spent the last month developing and testing new site protocols that incorporate the necessary social distancing and protective measures, we believe that we are now able to return to site safely and support the UK's economic recovery from the pandemic. These new measures are fully compliant with government public health guidance and will be strictly enforced by a specialist team, with any individual failing to uphold standards being subject to disciplinary action and removal from site.”
He added: "Persimmon's strong financial liquidity has enabled us to maintain our operational capability through this period by supporting all our colleagues on full pay, which will allow us to reopen sites swiftly, and emerge from the shutdown well-prepared and ready to deliver the new homes the country needs, aided by our strong work in progress position."