As part of the strengthened measures to combat the coronavirus, the government has set a list of essential services or enterprises.
From this list it appears that construction companies are not considered as essential enterprises.
An exception is made for electricians and for essential services related to urgent repairs involving safety or health risks.
1. Construction is not an essential service
This does not mean that working in the construction sector is no longer possible.
But the strengthened measures will have to be respected. Teleworking should be applied as much as possible and if not, the rules of social distancing of minimum 1.5 m should be strictly applied on construction sites, for transport organised by the employer and deliveries.
Companies that cannot comply with these obligations will be forced to close down and risk heavy fines.
On the other hand, an exception is made for the electricians (installation and distribution) as well as for essential services related to urgent repairs involving safety or health risks, which are considered an essential service.
Therefore, these categories do not have to comply with the above-mentioned restrictions.
Nevertheless, they will have to ensure that the 1.5 m social distancing rules are respected as far as possible and, if possible, teleworking.
We will keep you informed as soon as possible if the list of essential services will be revised.
3. Temporary unemployment due to force majeure
Firms that are not able to continue working under the stricter rules may invoke temporary unemployment due to force majeure.
Firms that have to cease their activities due to illness, quarantine or prevention can also invoke temporary unemployment due to force majeure.
If clients or contractors forbid access to the construction site, due to a lack of equipment or for other reasons related to the coronavirus crisis, temporary unemployment due to force majeure can also be invoked.
We refer in this context to our specific article on this subject.
4. Current contracts
Force majeure occurs when there is an unforeseen event, beyond the contractor's control and with the result that the commitment cannot be carried out temporarily or permanently.
Most building contracts provide for a clause for extension/suspension of the execution period in the event of force majeure, or have a clause that no compensation will be due if the execution period is exceeded in the event of force majeure.
It is important to check the terms and conditions of the contracts.
If no force majeure clause is included in the contract, one can fall back on the legal concept of "force majeure". The Civil Code provides that no compensation is due if one is prevented from fulfilling its contractual obligations due to force majeure.
We would like to refer you to our other article on this subject, which you can read by clicking here.
What do we recommend if you consider invoking "force majeure" because of the corona crisis?
- First check your contracts or have them checked regarding force majeure and the extension/suspension of the execution period;
- Contact your contract party and try to find a common solution or have your counsel to do so;
- Always remain reasonable and ethical, given the circumstances ;
- If you have any doubts, do not hesitate to contact us.
- Only if no amicable solution is possible you can consider involving the court.
Please, do not hesitate to contact us. It goes without saying, therefore, that we can assist you, first of all to assess your legal position and to consider what action you can or should take in this crisis. You can always contact us on 02/747 40 07 or CoronaTaskforce@seeds.law.