One in five architects remained on furlough in June, according to research published by the RIBA this week
The institute’s Future Trends poll of 265 practices found that 19 per cent of staff were being supported by the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme last month.
This initiative – launched by chancellor Rishi Sunak at the start of the lockdown – pays people retained by companies through the Covid-19 crisis up to 80 per cent of their wages for unworked hours.
Although the proportion of architectural staff using the scheme fell slightly from 22 per cent in May, thousands remained dependent on government funding that is being slowly phased out.
The Treasury currently pays minimum employer contributions to furloughed staff’s National Insurance and auto-enrol pension pots but this element will end on 31 July. The level of support on offer to furloughed staff will then reduce in September and October and close completely from Halloween.
Practices – which have taken a huge hit already during the enforced lockdown – expected a further dip over the summer when polled in June.
While 23 per cent of those surveyed predicted an upturn in workload in the three months to September, this was outweighed by 40 per cent anticipating a drop.
On balance, a fall in workloads was expected across all sectors, with commercial work anticipated to be hit hardest, followed by community work, then public sector projects. Private housing was seen as the least negative place to be working.
Three in four practices forecast no change in their permanent headcount over the following three months, but one in five foresaw a reduction, with just one in 25 expecting growth in staff numbers by September.
RIBA head of economic research and analysis Adrian Malleson said: ‘Economic uncertainty remains, with many architects expressing concerns about future workloads and significant challenges ahead. The global pandemic, coupled with the risks of a no-deal Brexit, continues to impact our sector.
‘However, in June we saw an increase in some architects’ confidence and the early signs of returning workloads. More sites are beginning to reopen and practices, particularly those in the residential sector, reported a sharp rise in new enquires. Design work is being carried out, despite the challenges that come with home working.’