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Study reveals significant confusion over COVID-19 liabilities

SAEMA endeavours to keep its members up to date with the latest developments in the construction industry, including those regarding COVID-19. Research from quantity surveying firm Turner & Townsend claims that one in three construction contracts are not fit to address the effects of notifiable Covid-19 events..

The inadequacy of contract conditions is leaving clients bearing responsibility for additional costs and time delays.

The study found that the majority of liability arising from COVID-19 events was believed to be held by the contractual ‘employer’ – the party that engages the contractor, rather than the supplier.

The findings highlight a need for greater clarity over contract terms, according to the authors,  particularly with 83% of respondents experiencing a pause or temporary site closure because of COVID-19, and a further 72% reporting reduced productivity levels.

45% of those surveyed reported an increase in contractual disputes since the start of the pandemic, while a third said that their contracts were unfit to address the effects of notifiable COVID-19 events – partly due to the interpretation of liability for unforeseen events and reliance upon force majeure clauses.

Furthermore, 43% of respondents considered that COVID-19 events were not sufficient on their own to claim additional time and/or money.

Just about everyone, it seems, is looking for answers to these problems: 63% of respondents have sought contractual guidance from the government due to the uncertainty; another third have consulted their industry bodies or sought professional advice.

With contractors still cautious about existing contract provisions and liability for cost and time events caused by COVID-19, the research found that 49% are building in COVID-19 related costs in their tender submissions.

SAEMA – Specialist Access Engineering and Maintenance Association – is the national trade body for the permanent and temporary façade access equipment industry.

SAEMA have a long history in delivering the best training and guidance in the temporary and permanent suspended access industry. We are committed to advancing safety through raising the standards in best practice, with a range of objectives in place to ensure you’re in safe hands.

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