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Survey finds over 9 in 10 engineering services firms fear impact of coronavirus

Over nine in 10 engineering services businesses (93 per cent) say they are ‘concerned or very concerned’ about the impact of coronavirus on their business over the next six months, according to initial responses to a major new ECA/BESA/SELECT engineering services survey.

Over 60 per cent of respondents are ‘very concerned’ about coronavirus while perhaps remarkably, one per cent of respondents suggested they were ‘unconcerned’.

Half of the engineering services respondents (51 per cent) said that they have already encountered ‘delays and disruptions to current projects’, with 61 per cent of larger businesses reporting current disruption. Around half of respondents already report ‘delays and disruption to future work’. Over half of respondents (53 per cent) said they were now ‘preparing business contingency plans’ as a result of developments, a figure which rose to 71 per cent in larger businesses.

The most commonly cited business activity in response to coronavirus to date is ‘reducing business travel’ and ‘asking or allowing staff to work from home’, followed by ‘business contingency planning.’ However, around 10 per cent of businesses say they have ‘shut down at certain premises or sites’, and over 10 per cent of respondents also say they are ‘updating their contracts’ and ‘looking into alternative suppliers’.

ECA chief executive, Steve Bratt, commented: “Coronavirus is already having a significant impact across our industry and wider society. ECA is aware that many businesses are already encountering work delays, site access issues and cancellations.

“We are actively working with industry bodies and Government to represent the concerns and interests of the industry. Key to this is ensuring that Government understands that early, significant and practically useful support is needed to help our industry with cashflow, but also to provide as much certainty as possible.”

BESA director of legal and commercial, Debbie Petford, said: “Though these are just preliminary findings, the sheer scale of the disruption to the sector is alarming. We will be working around the clock to provide as much guidance as possible to our members, and calling on the government to keep providing additional stimulus and support as the situation evolves, to ensure businesses make it to other side of this crisis in one piece.”

SELECT managing director, Alan Wilson, commented: “This is clearly an extremely worrying time for SELECT Members and the wider industry. Each day brings fresh concerns, with the threat of shutdown still looming large.

“Like ECA and BESA, we are taking proactive measures to help electrical professionals address their concerns at this unprecedented moment in history. The knock-on effects of this pandemic could be catastrophic for the industry, particularly when it comes to payments, so it’s essential that vital cash flow continues.”

The survey, which is still live, has already received over 600 responses from across the industry, including nearly 180 from larger businesses in the sector. The coronavirus situation is fast moving, and further survey responses are expected to show increasing impact on the industry in the days ahead.

Engineering services plays a critical role in developing and maintaining the UK’s built environment - which includes businesses, housing, hospitals and care homes, and the UK’s wider infrastructure, and is fundamental to employment and keeping the UK economy moving.

19 March 2020

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