The current UK government advice is for everyone in the UK to practice social distancing -  limiting face-to-face contact with people who are not in your household and maintaining a two-metre distance between one another. Where this is not possible - such as on public transport, etc. you need to wear a face mask. The governments of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have issued their own guidance.

Plumbers and installers will, of course, be concerned about the impact that lockdown has had on their businesses. The government has outlined several ways of supporting businesses during this challenging time including but not limited to business interruption loans, the job retention scheme and income support for the self-employed.

As the easing of lock down continues and we make tentative steps to determine our way forward, where does this leave plumbers and installers regarding their prospect of working? Given the present climate, many homeowners may be confused and anxious about what work can be done and how they can keep safe with tradespeople coming into or even outside of their homes.

For tradespeople who are working, there are ways to reassure and protect customers (and themselves) - such as limiting their time in a house, disinfecting door handles they’ve touched, taking drinks so as not to use the homeowner's mugs and of course wearing a mask and washing their hands regularly with soap and water/hand sanitiser – or wear gloves.

Recently, The IPG ran a Facebook competition, asking plumbers and installers to answer three simple questions, with the aim of understanding; what they thought of the Government schemes to help self-employed workers, if they were still working and how Covid-19 has impacted their business.

The findings are telling (results compiled June 1, 2020), the Government support packages are working for some plumbers and installers but not for others. 56% felt that the schemes were positive and very helpful during these difficult times, one installer said that “they were a good solution to an impossible situation”. 38% felt that they were not much help, it took too long to get any payment and they needed to be better. 3% had no opinion.

We also shed some light on the percentage of plumbers and installers who were still working and those who were not.  58% had stopped working, with one participant stating, “It has completely shut down my business, as a domestic plumber/bathroom fitter I had to completely stop working for the safety of myself and customers”. Another said: “We have closed down as we are domestic, no one wanted us to do house calls, jobs haven't really been coming in, I've only had 2 emergencies to go to in this time”.

In contrast, 42% revealed that they were still working, stating various reasons for this, one plumber commented:  “As a self-employed contractor, the initial lockdown resulted in me being out of work for a while - until the building site I was on implemented Covid safety measures”. Another remarked: “We are working but more aware of sanitising and customer interaction, we just have to adjust to suit the current situation - keep 2 meters apart, wear masks and gloves and wash regularly, making customers aware of procedures.”

David Cairns, Head of Supplier and Commercial Strategy at The IPG supports the safe working code stating: “In the UK, heating installers and plumbers primarily work alone or in small teams in private properties, changing location on a regular basis. Now, more than ever, safe working arrangements and practices are an important area to focus on. The public will become increasingly aware of the importance of not only using a tradesperson who is qualified but one who is also fully aware of Covid-19 health and safety measures.”

He went on to say: “IPG members are all implementing Covid-19 health and safety measures in the workplace, making their stores a safe environment to shop in or click and collect. Never has buying from an independent business been more relevant. It is a significant contributing factor in supporting local employment, boosting UK innovation, as well as increasing environmental benefits. Support your local independent!”