Category Archives: Industry News

What businesses need to know about the UKCA (UK Conformity Assessed) marking

ukca

As a result of the UK leaving the EU, there has been changes to how businesses place manufactured goods on the market.

What is the UKCA marking?

The UKCA (UK Conformity Assessed) marking is the new UK product marking that is used for goods being placed on the market in Great Britain (England, Wales, and Scotland). It must be used to show that the goods are compliant with the UK regulations. The UKCA marking covers most goods which previously required the CE marking.

Who needs to use the UKCA marking?

Those who are selling goods within Great Britain, and previously needed the CE mark, will need to use the UKCA marking. Please note that the UKCA marking applies to goods that have previously needed the CE mark and additionally it is needed on aerosols which previously needed a ‘reverse epsilon’ marking.

When did the UKCA marking come into effect?

The UKCA marking came into effect on 1st January 2021.

When do businesses have to start using the UKCA marking?

Businesses have been able to use the UKCA marking ever since it came into effect on 1st January 2021.

However, businesses must use the UKCA marking from 1st January 2023. It has been confirmed that until then, in most cases, businesses can use the CE marking.

What do businesses need to do?

There are 5 key steps that businesses must take:

  1. Check if your product needs the UKCA marking. You can check this by clicking here.
  2. Check what the most appropriate route is for your business for conformity assessment. Some businesses will need to self-declare or use third party conformity assessment. You can check this by clicking here.
  3. If your business requires third party conformity assessment, identify an appropriate notified body. You can do this by clicking here.
  4. Draft the technical documentation and Declaration of Conformity. The UK Declaration of Conformity attests that the manufacturer or authorised representatives have ensured the safety of the product.
  5. Affix the UKCA marking and prepare to place your goods on the market.

For further information on the UKCA marking, please click here.

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Consumer protection reforms unveil mandatory mediation in home improvement sector

New Government guidance published on 20th July unveils that using arbitration or mediation will become mandatory in the home improvement sector. The guidance states, “For the used car and home improvement sectors, where consumers often make large, important one-off purchases, the government will make it mandatory for businesses to take part in arbitration or mediation where disputes arise over a transaction.”

Further details of the change are yet to be announced.

What does HICS think of the change?

It is of utmost importance to us to handle disputes professionally and fairly in the sector and we welcome seeing an enforced use of mediation or arbitration in the home improvement industry.

We therefore strongly agree with the change and agree that business participation in either mediation or arbitration should be mandatory in the home improvement sector.

At HICS we have seen the success of alternative dispute resolution first-hand in both the short amount of time taken to resolve disputes and the success rates of resolving disputes without the need to engage further with the Ombudsman or with legal action. We have seen the success amongst both consumers and installers.

However, we must note that albeit the change is a positive one, consideration must be taken when it comes to consumer awareness of the changes to consumer law. Consumer awareness of mandatory mediation or arbitration participation and signposting must be improved across the industry. Consumers must be aware of their consumer rights to mediation or arbitration prior to taking any legal action. Traders must be responsible for publicly providing details of their alternative dispute resolution provider.

Faisal Hussain, HICS Chief Executive, comments, “The above change to consumer law and policy is extremely positive for the home improvement industry and it’s great to see a focus on supporting consumers and traders to resolve their disputes more professionally. After seeing the success of ADR at HICS, we are certain this is a step in the right direction and believe it will help to improve the industry and its reputation.”

To read the official Government guidance, please click here.

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NHIC wins Best Home Improvement Advocacy UK Award

The National Home Improvement Council (NHIC) are winners of this year’s BUILD Magazine Awards – Best Home Improvement Advocacy – UK.

The NHIC is the umbrella organisation for the UK refurbishment, maintenance and home improvement sector. Established in 1974 by Lord Ezra Kt MBE, it is the longest-serving voluntary membership organisation supporting the domestic RMI and broader Home Improvement sector in the UK.

As an ambassador for collaborative action, the NHIC works across its membership, broader industry and government to improve the nation’s homes together.

Post COVID-19 recovery together with the new demands on homes for homeworking, home-schooling and exercising at home alongside the demographic demands of an increasing and ageing population, carbon emissions, fuel poverty and the ever-present concerns regarding an ageing workforce and skills shortage; the need for advocacy to raise awareness and the standard of home improvement is never-ending.

The NHIC continues to inform, support, influence and connect members while being an impartial and trusted source of evidence-based expertise and knowledge.

Anna Scothern, NHIC Chief Executive, comments:

“We will continue to advocate on behalf of the RMI sector the need for working together to decarbonise existing homes, create jobs and rebuild the post covid economy.”

Faisal Hussain, Scheme Chief Executive, comments:

“We are so proud of the NHIC who have won the ‘Best Home Improvement Advocacy – UK’ award in this year’s BUILD Magazine Awards. The NHIC work tirelessly to represent the home improvement and RMI sector and ensure that the industry remains a priority across Government. They have a great vision and it’s truly a well-deserved award for the team.”

HICS Chief Executive Appointed as NHIC Non-Executive Director

Faisal Hussain, HICS Chief Executive, has recently been appointed as a Non-Executive Director for the National Home Improvement Council (NHIC).

The NHIC, established in 1974, is the umbrella organisation for the UK refurbishment, maintenance, and home improvement sector. It represents the whole home improvement and RMI sector and helps to ensure that home improvement and domestic RMI remain a priority across Government.

The NHIC have a vision to raise all homes to modern living standards while inspiring and supporting householders to refurbish, maintain and improve their homes using local professionals with confidence and work with their membership, broader industry, and Government to achieve this.

As a Non-Executive Director on the Board, Faisal will assist in the long-term success of the NHIC by helping to provide strategic advice on achieving NHIC vision and objectives.

Faisal Hussain, Chief Executive of the Scheme, comments:

“HICS’s three pillars are to protect consumers, support its membership and raise industry standards, all of which closely align to the NHIC’s mission, vision and values. I am thrilled to be appointed as a Non-Executive Director on their board, representing HICS, and to help to deliver their message and success to the home improvement industry.”

Anna Scothern, Chief Executive National Home Improvement Council, comments:

“The NHIC is in a great place, and it’s an exciting time to welcome new Directors to the board at a time when the home improvement sector is recognised as having so much to offer. Not only to the zero carbon pathway, but also to building safety, consumer protection, digital transformation and addressing the skills gap. I am looking forward to working with Faisal to continue to strengthen the organisation and improve the nation’s homes together”.

A Summary of CITB’s Building Skills for Net Zero Report

Building Skills for Net Zero

With the impending Net Zero by 2050 target, the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) have conducted comprehensive research to outline the skills implications for the workforce required to reach the Government’s target. CITB’s Building Skills for Net Zero Report covers their key findings.

A key focus of the report is that there needs to be a transformation of the construction sector in order to meet Net Zero by 2050. To create this lasting transformation, CITB stress the importance of an industry-wide investment in skills, far-reaching skills policy reform and a recruitment drive. By using data from the Climate Change Committee (CCC)’s balanced scenario, CITB predict that an additional 350,000 full-time equivalent workers will be needed by 2028 – around a 13% increase on the current size of the workforce.

What did the respondents think?

CITB undertook 48 in-depth interviews with industry stakeholders and surveyed nearly 300 people.

3/4s of respondents said that decarbonisation was either important or very important to themselves or their company. With that, 70% responded that they have a good or very good understanding of how they will need to change their business because of the need to decarbonise, with 88%, saying they would be willing to diversify and 90% would retrain if necessary.

Tackling emissions

Estimates by the UK Green Building Council state that up to 95% of emissions from the built environment over the next 30 years could come from buildings that exist today.

Therefore, CITB believe focus must be put on the energy efficiency retrofit of existing buildings with predictions that at least some retrofit work will be required on around 27 million residential and 2 million non-residential buildings to reduce emissions over the next 30 years.

What will be needed to achieve Net Zero by 2050?

Within the Building Skills for Net Zero report, CITB outline what they think will be needed in order to achieve the Government’s target of Net Zero by 2050:

  • A widespread programme of upskilling and reskilling to improve the industry capabilities in areas such as project management, system design and digitalisation.
  • Constant re-assessment of future demand as the industry transforms.
  • Training programmes, courses, qualifications, and accreditation to support workers through lifelong learning so that they can continue to retrain and upskill as demands evolve.
  • A combined approach of pathways – hydrogen deployment through the grid, fabric first retrofit, heat pumps, heat networks and onsite energy.

How are CITB working to achieve this?

CITB have devised a plan to help meet the Net Zero skills challenge and are taking many steps such as:

  • Working with the UK Green Jobs Taskforce, the Construction Leadership Council, the Scottish Construction Leadership Forum, and the Welsh Construction Forum.
  • Developing and reviewing training standards that support the decarbonisation of the built environment.
  • Working with the British Standards Institute to update existing PAS retrofit requirements.
  • Supporting new training qualifications, including the Level 5 Diploma in Retrofit Coordination and Risk Management, Retrofit Assessor in Wales, and updates to existing qualifications such as the Insulation and Building Treatments NVQ.
  • Supporting the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments to map the skills implications of the plans they are currently developing to reach Net Zero in the built environment.
  • In England, supporting the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IFATE)’s announced route review of construction apprenticeship standards to ensure they continue to meet emerging requirements.
  • Working with Skills Development Scotland and the Welsh Government’s Skills, Higher Education and Lifelong Learning team to support relevant reviews and developments.
  • Working with the UK Government to ensure new construction traineeships and associated fast-track apprenticeships being launched in England in 2021 will provide critical training and onsite experience in energy efficient building methods.
  • Working with Welsh and Scottish governments to provide new pathways from FE into industry that will be responsive to developing Net Zero requirements.

Faisal Hussain, HICS Chief Executive, comments:

“CITB’s Building Skills for Net Zero report showcased some interesting statistics and a thorough insight into what is needed to reach the Net Zero by 2050 target. It’s great to see the actions that are being taken by those in the industry, and the actions that the industry are prepared to take over the coming years. As an industry we really need to work together, as well as working with Governments, to ensure that the correct skills are developed and that there is a clear, outlined plan to developing these skills. We fully support CITB’s plan.”

To view the Building Skills for Net Zero report, please click here.

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COVID-19 lockdown guide for installers

We have produced this guide to help installers navigate their way through the current lockdown.

The guide includes information on:

  • If tradespeople in England and Wales can work
  • How to protect yourself, your staff, and your customers
  • Working in consumer’s homes
  • Social distancing
  • Keeping work areas clean
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and face coverings
  • Useful links

To download your copy today, please click here.

New regulator for construction products

new regulator construction

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has announced the launch of a new regulator that ensures materials used to build homes will be safer.

The launch follows the Hackitt review which came after the Grenfell tragedy and the Building Safety Bill that was published in Summer 2020. The Bill “set out the biggest reforms to building safety regulation for a generation, and included provisions to strengthen and extend the scope of the powers available to government to regulate construction products.”

This new regulator will have the power to remove any product from the market that presents a significant safety risk and prosecute any companies who do not follow the rules on product safety.

Currently, market surveillance and enforcement of construction products safety is the responsibility of under-funded local authority trading standards services. Trading standards services saw budget cuts of around 60% between 2010 and 2018 meaning that construction products are unlikely to be a priority in each of the 200 plus trading standards services. Although general product safety is a priority within trading standards, it is a wide portfolio consisting of toys, electrical products, and cosmetics amongst other areas.

Regulated construction products

All installers will use regulated construction products.

These regulated construction products are defined in law as “any product or kit which is produced and placed on the market for incorporation in a permanent manner in construction works or parts thereof and the performance of which has an effect on the performance of the construction works with respect to the basic requirements for construction works”.

Examples of construction products include doors, windows, shutters and gates, membranes, and thermal insulation products.

Does the new regulator for construction products impact installers?

Installers have always had to supply goods that are safe and comply with the existing rules and regulations around construction products. This means that there is unlikely to be any change to the way installers currently need to operate.

However, later this year new rules will come in around CE marking with the move towards a new UK Conformity Assessment (UKCA) mark in place of the CE mark.

HIES, DGCOS and HICS have secured expert training on the UKCA which will be offered to members of all schemes later this year.

Adrian Simpson, Director of Policy and Affairs at HIES, HICS, and DGCOS, comments:

“In these times of Government austerity and de-regulation, a new regulator is a surprising, but a welcome addition to the building and construction safety family. With £10m allocated towards this new regulator it will be interesting to see how this new regulator will work alongside trading standards services.

The regulator comes at a time when product safety is in focus. With the vast majority of product safety derived from European Union legislation, the move towards the UK deciding its own product safety priorities has begun and with Grenfell still in our thoughts, construction products seem to be the right place to start.”

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Could a strong online presence generate leads just as well as word of mouth?

strong online presence

Word of mouth marketing has been around since the beginning of time and we all know that it’s a great way to generate leads for free. Research proves it. 72% of people get news from friends and family, making word of mouth the most popular channel for sharing [1].

Word of mouth marketing has evolved over time and now it doesn’t rely solely on having a conversation with your peers, but also on social media and review sites. In the new digital age, there are influencers recommending businesses on Instagram, people who you may follow whose tweets go viral about their experience with a company, and people giving company recommendations in Facebook groups.

However, how does word of mouth marketing compare to having a strong online presence? By online presence we mean a modern, user-friendly website, active social media channels (from Facebook through to LinkedIn), videos, user generated content (UGC) and actively generating authentic and positive reviews, for example.

With a wealth of digital marketing tools at our fingertips, is word of mouth still the #1 contender, or has digital marketing replaced it? It’s a tricky question to answer and that’s why we advise maximising both to increase awareness, attract and secure new leads and increase retention and repeat purchases.

By utilising the right digital marketing channels for your sector, you can get ahead of your competitors. Most companies will receive some form of word of mouth marketing but not all companies have a strong online presence to back it up. You can reach more customers online and collect visible online reviews and testimonials to help build trust and personal recommendations on groups and chat which will lead to increased enquiries and conversions.

How you can best use digital marketing to increase your online presence

There are many ways to increase your brand reputation online and attract potential customers but here are our top 5 tips:

  1. People generally trust other people more than they trust a brand themselves
    This is where the importance of good customer reviews comes in. If you know a customer is really pleased with the service you have provided, ask them to leave an online review, whether on Facebook, Google My Business listing, or on reviews sites such as TrustPilot. 91% of consumers say that reading a positive review makes them more likely to use a business. [2] Facebook also has a specific tool that lets its users ask for recommendations.

 

  1. Make sure your website is searchable and user friendly (particularly for mobile search)
    Many customers search online for local and reputable companies and will check out your website before contacting you and/or giving you the job. Your website needs to be SEO friendly so people can find you and also user-friendly in terms of navigation, information and calls to action to help you stand out from the competition.

 

  1. Create extra value for your customers
    Having a website is great and although most tradespeople have websites, not all tradespeople have a website blog. You can create extra value for your customers by having a blog and writing informative and educational content that will help your customers.

 

  1. Ensure you have a social media presence
    Having a website is a good start however having social media is now a necessity in the digital age, given that there are over 3.2 billion people on social media globally. [3] Social media not only enhances your reach, but it is also great for showcasing individual jobs, your brand, your personality as well as enhancing credibility and connecting with the wider industry.

 

  1. Stay active online and stay on your customers’ radar
    If you have set up social media profiles, it is important to stay active on these. People value consistent communication so make sure you’re posting a variety of content formats at least every few days to keep your audience engaged. It also helps you increase your business reputation online as well as driving traffic to your website.

There are also many other ways to help build your brand online, but these are our top five starting points. If you have any questions about any of this, or would simply like some advice or assistance, please contact us either by phone on 0333 323 2655 or by email at info@hicsscheme.org.uk where our team will be happy to help you.

[1] Pew Research Center

[2] https://www.brightlocal.com/research/local-consumer-review-survey/#influence-of-reviews

[3] https://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics  

7 Reasons to Use Mediation

Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and is a process to settle disputes without the need for litigation. Mediation can help resolve issues after a consumer and business has reached a deadlock.

So why use mediation to resolve a dispute?

1) It can save you money

Going to court can be an extremely costly process when you consider court fees and legal fees. Depending on the outcome of the case, you may also be ordered to pay the legal costs of the other party if you have unreasonably refused mediation in the process.

2) It’s quick

ADR is quick, particularly where mediation is involved. ADR providers do have varying average resolution times, so it’s important to inquire about this beforehand.

Our average dispute resolution time is industry-leading at 3.59 days, whereas the UK average ADR resolution time is currently 80 days. (CTSI ADR Report, 2018).

3) It will save you time and resource

Court proceedings can take up a huge amount of time and resource in both preparation and attendance. Businesses can also realise operational efficiencies using ADR services, freeing up considerable management time.

4) It’s fair

Mediators are trained to factually assess the dispute and resolve the dispute with an outcome that satisfies both parties. Mediators do not have full control of the outcome and therefore enable the parties to reach a mutually agreed and fair outcome together.

5) It helps preserve customer relationships and drive better outcomes

ADR can be a less adversarial and hostile way to resolve a dispute. It allows both parties to be heard and have the opportunity to understand each other’s point of view. ADR is less confrontational which can not only reduce stress for both parties, it can also be an important consideration for a more positive ongoing relationship.

6) It’s confidential

Court proceedings are in the public domain whereas ADR can be kept confidential by agreement, safeguarding your reputation. Confidentiality usually extends to what happens in the mediation and any settlement arising out of it.

7) It’s flexible

Alternative dispute resolution can be much more flexible in terms of outcomes. It can achieve outcomes that a court could not order, or to get a result that both parties think is fairer than that dictated by law.

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The Green Homes Grant and “Buy to Let” Landlords

buy to let

With the announcement of the impending Green Homes Grant in September, many homeowners and installers are gearing up ready for installations. However, it’s not only homeowners that should be assessing the energy efficiency of their properties but Buy to Let landlords are included and should be planning now to see if their properties need to be improved too.

With only just over one month until the application process opens for the Green Homes Grant scheme, Buy to Let landlords need to be assessing their properties now, or in the very near future, as the application process is expected to receive high volumes.

Landlords are urged to focus on the works that can be done with the grant funding.

Online applications made by landlords can only be passed to accredited suppliers or “registered local tradesmen” to carry out the works under the scheme.

The grant scheme will fund at least two-thirds of the cost for energy efficient measures up to a maximum of £5,000 for landlords who need to improve the energy efficiency of their properties. Currently, landlords cannot let their properties out if they have an energy performance rating of F or G (unless they qualify for an exemption).

The Chancellor stated that he hopes 600,000 homes will be improved with the grant. The full details of the grants have not yet been published however the information provided so far suggests that the grants will only last for one year so landlords are urged to review their properties as soon as possible to take advantage of the scheme.

The government also hopes that this will create a further 100,000 jobs in the “Green Sector” – one of the important reasons behind the grant, to boost a ‘green recovery’ as we come out of lockdown.

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