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Coronavirus Kent: Redrow sales staff work in office despite government advice on social distancing

Sales staff at one of the UK's largest house builders have been working in the office up until now, despite the government issuing advice to only leave the house if absolutely essential.

Redrow, which has multiple estates and offices dotted across Kent, closed all sites to the public earlier this week.

Government advice is to work from home unless essential
Government advice is to work from home unless essential

Many employees were working remotely at this point.

However, a "reduced number of people" were still required to work on-site, although focus was put on "those locations where customers urgently needed access to their new homes" or "construction operations on plots were due to complete over the coming weeks", according to the Redrow website.

The government guidelines do not actually state offices have to close.

Advice reads: "Employers and employees should discuss their working arrangements, and employers should take every possible step to facilitate their employees working from home but sometimes this will not be possible.

"However, employers who have people in their offices or on-site should ensure employees are able to follow Public Health England guidelines including, where possible, maintaining a two-metre distance from others, and washing their hands with soap and water often for at least 20 seconds (or using hand sanitiser gel if soap and water is not available)."

Redrow has housing developments across the county and nationwide
Redrow has housing developments across the county and nationwide

Some staff - who did not want to be named - raised concerns it might not always be possible to meet these regulations in the office environment.

But a letter published on the Redrow website on Tuesday, stated: "Sites currently remain open with strict precautions in place including enhanced levels of cleaning, additional hygiene facilities and social distancing."

And a second letter published today revealed all sites and offices will be closed with immediate effect following "increased inpracticality due to the supply chain being significantly impacted in recent days"

It also states: "Our main priority is to safeguard the well-being of our workforce and customers."

A "significant proportion" of Redrow employees will be furloughed immediately, under the Government's job retention scheme.

Workmen were spotted standing close to one another in Maidstone. Picture: Mark Seaman
Workmen were spotted standing close to one another in Maidstone. Picture: Mark Seaman

The letter goes on to say: "When there is a return to normality in the supply chain, and we are satisfied it is safe for our workforce to return to work, we will reopen sites and re-commence production with an initial focus on fulfilling our substantial order book."

Executive chairman, John Tutte, added: "These are unprecedented times. The actions we have announced today will give us the flexibility to manage the business through this turbulent period to ensure we are ready to resume production when it is safe to do so."

Construction has been highlighted as another industry allowed to continue operating despite the lockdown, and workers are finding it hard to adhere to the guidelines.

A photo taken by Mark Seaman in Maidstone shows workers very close to one another on the Springfield Park site.

Co-director of Medway and Maidstone Scaffolding, James Richards, added there is a lot of confusion on how to go about working while complying with the rules.

James Richards, Medway and Maidstone Scaffolding (32450349)
James Richards, Medway and Maidstone Scaffolding (32450349)

He said: "Some people want to carry on working but others are worried as it's hard to be more than two metres away from someone on a building site, as you're passing a lot of stuff between you.

"There's just so much confusion. We should be looking at the government website to find out what to do but we are just asking each other."

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