The Dark Clouds of COVID and Silver Linings: Q&A interview with Simon Newton
Since British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s unprecedented address to the nation at 8.30pm on March 23, the UK economy has been placed into a state of lockdown.
Darke & Taylor’s Managing Director, Simon Newton, shared his thoughts on how D&T has been financially affected by this lockdown, its ongoing productivity, and whether there are any silver linings to be found amidst the dark clouds.
The Financial Effects of COVID-19
Q. First of all Simon, what has D&T’s strategy been since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Well, we’ve adopted a dual strategy since the outbreak of COVID-19: first, to protect the health of those employees deemed most at risk, and secondly, to preserve the long-term viability of business.
This has meant furloughing a number of D&T’s employees and office staff working from home wherever possible, but where D&T was able to operate on sites safely and within the government guidelines, we did so and will continue to do so going forwards.
Q. As far as the furloughed employees are concerned, what is D&T’s position?
As you’re no doubt aware, in a response to the pandemic the Government brought in a furlough scheme – officially called the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) – to help employers pay their workers during lockdown.
In the first full week of lockdown, over 50% of D&T’s projects and premises of work were closed down with almost immediate effect. The CJRS was therefore hugely helpful in terms of protecting employment, with approximately 50% of D&T’s staff placed on furlough at the outset of the crisis.
However, as building owners and main contractors have become accustomed managing their sites in line with the government advice, we have seen more projects gradually come back online. As of the week commencing 11 May, around 80-90% of our projects were active, and roughly 20% of our staff remain furloughed.
We’re looking to reduce this furlough percentage further over the course of May and are keeping in close contact with those staff who have underlying health issues in order to assimilate them safely back into the workforce.
Q. What has been the financial impact upon D&T?
As I’ve just mentioned, by taking swift and decisive action using the CJRS we were able to save jobs during the first few difficult weeks of lockdown when everybody was still coming to terms with the guidance.
Now that we’re up to 80-90% productivity, business is slowly returning to pre-lockdown levels, although nobody is sure what ‘normal’ will look like in such a dramatically changed environment.
However, as time has gone on, we’ve even managed to find some silver linings amidst the dark clouds; for example, rather than waiting for the annual summer shutdown, we’ve been able to get ahead of maintenance and refurbishment work at many Oxford Colleges, Universities, Schools and other educational establishments.
Overall with close co-operation with our clients and effective use of the furlough scheme, Darke & Taylor has been able to minimise the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on its business and is in a strong position to address the commercial realities of the new “normal” that we are all getting used to. We are lucky that our sector has not been hit as badly as others and that we can do our bit towards protecting the economy and local employment.
D&T will continue keep you posted on its response to COVID-19 through a series of Q&A sessions with its directors, project managers, and front-line workers.
If there is a topic you would like to see covered in a Q&A session, please leave a comment on this blog post below and we’ll get back to you.
Thank you once again to everybody for your support during these unprecedented times.