This Editor's Comment is from our April 2020 issue.

Although the threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis has been creeping ever closer in recent months, I think few of us truly expected the situation to unfold as it has done. 

At the time of writing, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has put the UK under lockdown in order to tackle the pandemic which has reached our borders. However, there’s still confusion about what this will mean for the plumbing and heating industry.

Guidance suggests that tradespeople are still allowed to work on either open air sites or when attending an emergency in someone’s home, but with the caveat of only being able to so if they are able to practice social distancing.

This suggests that gas engineers could still work if someone reported the smell of gas in their property, but there is little information available clarifying what an ‘emergency’ actually is. And although the gas engineer could work, would they want to, given the risk of interacting with the public and potentially contracting the virus, especially if they have loved ones who are deemed ‘high risk’? Certainly, a level of discretion will be required by the tradesperson to determine what jobs they do and don’t undertake during this period.

On top of that, with many merchants also closing their doors for the time being, and supply chains being disrupted, will the parts required for this type of work continue to be easily available?

Help for tradespeople has arrived in the form of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, which will pay self-employed workers 80% of average profits over the past three years, up to £2,500 per month, for at least three months. But, based on some of the initial feedback from trades on social media, it seems unlikely that it’ll make ends meet for lots of you, especially as payments won’t arrive until June at the earliest. 

Many of you will have had to take difficult decisions at this time. Are you still working, or did you stop completely? And if you have stopped, are you able to use this time constructively, such learning new skills to aid your business once this crisis blows over? If you would like to share your experiences, please email me at – we may look to use them in a future article.

Although it’s impossible to know what will happen in these unprecedented times, we will continue to report on all the news relevant to you as we hear it. The best way to keep up to date with the latest developments is on our website.

I truly hope you all stay safe in these difficult times.