The COVID-19 pandemic has caused mass disruption for businesses across the country, including HVAC companies and the wider construction industry.

We know our partners have faced severe difficulties during this time and we want to support you the best way we can, so we have collated information from the Government and other independent sources that we hope will help you now and into the future.

How has COVID-19 impacted HVAC businesses?

HVAC contractors have been carrying out important work to maintain modern levels of energy-efficient comfort in a time when we need it most. Unfortunately, this hasn't granted the sector immunity from the personal, professional and economic quakes that COVID-19 continues to bring.

Throughout this crisis, challenges and opportunities have presented themselves for HVAC businesses. Social distancing and restrictions forced businesses to temporarily shut down, lay off employees or pivot to working remotely.

However, the important role of the HVAC contractor in servicing building equipment to operate in line with new best practice guidelines didn't go unnoticed.

Mitsubishi Electric Air Conditioning Wall Mounted in Lobby 1

But as we prepare to enter a new lockdown, the thoughts of the HVAC sector are once again returning to how to cushion the blows that will inevitably come from the second round of national restrictions.

This is a continuously unfolding situation making it difficult to plan too far ahead. Therefore, it is important to work together as an industry, from manufacturers to installers, to support each other and to help the fight against coronavirus.

Exterior of office buildings with a large pond

Stay informed

From Tuesday 5th January 2021, the UK entered its third lockdown due to rapidly rising COVID-19 cases across the country.

The 
key restrictions include working from home unless you cannot do so, or are providing voluntary or charitable services. Exercise outside is permitted with your household, support bubble or one other person from another household, but this should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.

You can also meet your 
support bubble or childcare bubble where necessary, but only if you are legally permitted to form one.

These measures will apply nationally, the details for how long have yet to be announced, and the government will look at returning to a regional approach post-lockdown.

 

Approximately 1 in 3 people who now have coronavirus have no symptoms and could be spreading it without realising it. It's therefore important to remember the following:

Hands: Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds
Face: Wear a face-covering in indoor settings where social distancing may be difficult and where you come into contact with people you do not normally meet
Space: Keep 2 metres apart from people you do not live where possible, or 1 metre with extra precaution in place i.e. face-coverings

For more guidance on meeting others safely, see here.

Under lockdown rules, you may only leave your home for work if you cannot reasonably work from home. This includes, but isn't limited to, people who work in critical national infrastructure, construction or manufacturing, they should continue to travel to their workplace. For those working on construction sites, the Construction Leadership Council produced best practice Site Operating Procedures to ensure the safety of employees on-site.
Where it is necessary for you to work in other people's home, for examples tradespeople, you can do so. Guidance for people working in, visiting or delivering to other people's homes can be found here.

Please note under the new restrictions, we must all stay at home regardless of whether we have COVID-19 symptoms or not.

The main symptoms of coronavirus are a high temperature, a new, continuous cough and a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste. If you have any of the main symptoms of COVID-19 you should get a test as soon as possible and stay at home until you get the result.

Please visit the NHS website to find the latest information on COVID-19 and to get advice on testing.

How to prevent spreading coronavirus: To avoid the spread of coronavirus we are now being advised to stay at home. Where you must leave the house, you should follow preventative measures such as the following:

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds
  • Use hand sanitiser when you get home and into work
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when you cough or sneeze and wash your hands immediately after
  • Avoid close contact with others who have coronavirus
  • Only travel on public transport if you need to
  • Wear a face covering
  • Maintain 2-metres social distancing
The full list of preventative measures can be found on the NHS website.

Additional guidance

Government Support for Businesses

To find out what coronavirus-related financial support is available for your business, check here. Otherwise, HVAC businesses may find the following support schemes applicable (please note these are not applicable to self-employed business owners):

Job Retention Scheme: The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been extended until 31 April 2021. For claim periods running up to January 2021, employees will receive 80% of their usual salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2500.

Check the full eligibility criteria 
here.

Local Restrictions Support Grant: The Local Restrictions Support Grant was introduced to support businesses that have been required to close due to temporary COVID-19 local lockdown restrictions. Please note that this scheme is now being revised given the new nationwide restrictions.

Stay updated with any changes here.

Construction Talent Retention Scheme: The government-funded Construction Talent Retention Scheme will support the redeployment of workers at risk of redundancy in the construction sector.

The service involves a dedicated resourcing and talent management platform supporting redeployment, recruitment and skills development across all sectors of construction. Individuals can register their personal profile and CV and search for vacancies, whilst companies can contact individuals directly or advertise any vacancies they have. Register on the portal now.

Incentive payments for hiring new apprentices: The government have extended incentive payments for employers hiring new apprentices. You're now eligible for payments if you take on new apprentices from 1st August 2020 to 31st March 2021.

If you take on new apprentices from 1st February 2021, you can apply between 1st February 2021 and 30 April 2021.

Businesses will receive a payment of £2000 for apprentices aged 16 to 24, and £1500 for apprentices aged 25 and over. 
For information on how to apply, click here.

Retail, Hospitality and Leisure sector grants: Businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector can receive a one-off top-up grant worth up to £9,000 per property. This is in addition to the government providing 100% business rates relief for these industries.

Full information can be found 
here.
Deferred VAT payments: As planned, the deferred VAT payments scheme ended on 30th June. If you're a UK VAT-registered business that deferred VAT payments between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020 you have the option to make smaller payments up to the end of March 2022 instead of paying the full amount by the end of March 2021.

For more guidance, click here.

Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) Rebate Scheme: Employers can claim back up to 2 weeks of SSP for current or former employees through the rebate scheme. Employees do not have to give you a doctor's fit note for you to make a claim but you can ask for an isolation note from NHS 111, a 'shielding note' or letter from their doctor.

The scheme covers all types of employment contracts. Find out whether you are eligible here and make your claim here.
Job Retention Bonus: The Job Retention Bonus scheme has been postponed due to the Job Retention Scheme being extended until March 2021. More details on a replacement 'retention incentive' will be released at an appropriate time.

Job Support Scheme (JSS): The Job Support Scheme has been postponed due to the Job Retention Scheme being extended until March. More details on the JSS will be announced once the current restrictions are lifted.

Government support for the self-employed

Self-employed income support scheme: The government has announced an extension of the self-employment income scheme for businesses with new or continuing impact from COVID-19 between 1st November 2020 and 29th January 2021.

If you were not eligible for the first and second grants based on the information in your Self Assessment tax returns, you 
will not be eligible for the third.

Find the full eligibility criteria 
here and apply for your grant here.

Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS)

The Department of BEIS has hosted several webinars for small businesses which you can rewatch here. The previous webinars have included:

For relevant, industry-specific updates from the government, they also have a bulletin where they regularly publish the latest updates, sign up for the BEIS newsletter here.

Support from trade associations

Business Representative Organisations (BRO) and Trade Associations are providing coronavirus related support for specific sectors. Although the construction industry is being advised to continue working, we would advise checking the following bodies for any new information, guidance and support on the unfolding situation:

Build UK: Build UK is a BRO for the UK construction industry. Visit their coronavirus page for more information on how COVID-19 is impacting the construction industry, and what support is available.

The Building Engineering Services Association (BESA): The BESA are a membership organisation with a primary focus to support and serve members active in the design, installation, commissioning, maintenance, control and management of engineering systems and services in buildings. Their coronavirus hub provides a wealth of support and guidance for members including a list of recent and upcoming relevant webinars.

The Construction Leadership Council (CLC): The CLC have been providing essential information on the construction industry's response to coronavirus. Their Site Operating Procedures outline best practice for construction workers during this time.

The Builders Merchants Federation (BMF): The BMF is a trade association in the building materials' supply chain across the UK and Ireland, representing a number of trades including plumbing and heating merchants as well as those who manufacture and supply building materials and renewable energy systems. Their dedicated online hub provides guidance for those in this sector.

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB): The FMB is the largest trade association in the UK construction industry, representing thousands of firms across the country. Visit their coronavirus page to find out how they are supporting those across the industry.

Construction Industry Training Board (CITB): CITB is the industry training board for the construction sector in the UK. They have been supporting those in construction throughout the pandemic, which you can find details of here.

The National Association of Professional Inspectors and Testers (NAPIT): The NAPIT promotes professionalism and encourage high standards within the building services and building fabrics sectors. Their coronavirus guidance document provides clear information on contractual issues, working inside people's homes, working in other company buildings and working on construction sites

Key points: Access valuable documents covering industry-specific issues, and register for daily COVID-19 updates from BESA. Familiarise with CLCs Site Operating Procedures for best practice when working on-site.

Create a Business Continuity Plan (BCP)

A BCP is going to allow you to act faster and with greater confidence when a disaster occurs, as well as allow for a swifter recovery. 

A good BC plan recognises potential threats to your business and analyses what impact they may have on day-to-day operations. It also provides a way to mitigate these threats, putting in place a framework which allows key functions of the business to continue even if the worst happens.

The BESA have a useful document with a BCP checklist and example which you can use to get started, and rest assured it's much simpler than it sounds and will prove invaluable now and into the future.

 

Key points: Use downtime to plan out your next steps, you can find an excellent checklist here.

Marketing support for your business

Boost with Facebook Online: Facebook has been helping small and medium-sized businesses in the UK restart and recover by offering free tailored advice, training, resources and tools through their online hub.

In partnership with Be the Business, Facebook also has held virtual events to boost digital skills and access ongoing support. You can watch these back here.

Google Ad Credits: By 1st July, Google auto-applied free ad credits to all eligible Google ads accounts. Be sure to make use of this excellent form of marketing if you were in receipt of this credit. You can find helpful information on managing Google Ad campaigns through COVID-19 here.

Build or refresh your online presence: There's a healthy HVAC contractor community on social media, particularly on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you haven't already established these platforms for your business, now could be the chance to do so. A healthy social media presence can encourage greater customer loyalty, greater credibility and more business for your company, so investing some time into getting it right will be invaluable. Look at sharing some of your recent commissions and networking with other contractors.

If you do already have a social media presence for your HVAC business, now could be the time to analyse what is and isn't working. Ensure you've responded to any comments or direct messages, take stock of what posts have done well and devise a simple plan to incorporate more of these posts in future. Finally, take a look at your competitors to see whether they're using social media in ways which will benefit you when business as usual resumes.

This is also a good time to update your website, ensuring all information is up-to-date. This will be particularly beneficial when new work starts to come in, as Google will pick up the changes to your website, increasing the likelihood that it'll appear on the first page of search results when companies search for HVAC services.

Communicating with customers: Remaining honest, transparent and available to your end-users is important during this time.

Be vocal in outlining the precautions you are taking as a business to minimise the spread of COVID-19, including any new or reinforced hygiene measures as well as social distancing measures. With the situation continuing to unfold, it's worth putting out regular updates. Social media or emails are going to be most effective in communicating regular updates to your end-users, so be sure to use them to your advantage.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ's)

To make it easier to find quick answers to the key questions you may have as a business or as an individual, the government have put together an extensive list of FAQ's which you can find below.

FAQ's for businesses and employers.

FAQ's regarding business closures and stay-at-home advice.

FAQ's regarding the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.

How we can help you

We value our partners and want you to know that we're with you and supporting you during this time. If you'd like to speak to us directly, please contact any of our local branches and we'd be happy to hear your concerns.

*Please note that this information was correct as of 08.01.2021

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