Public sector clients are being ordered by central government to pay the supply chain even where work is suspended.
But the situation is very different in the private sector where contractors fear liquidated damages claims from clients following any site delays.
Build UK said: “The response from clients and contractors will be key to the survival of businesses of all sizes.
“There is a choice: fall back on contracts, pay for costly legal advice,and prepare for adversarial disputes or bring the supply chain together,and collectively look at how construction work can continue without putting workers at risk.”
One contractor said: “A lot is riding on how private clients behave once all this is over.
“If they come after us for damages then a lot of firms will go under and the only people who will profit are the lawyers.
“We are doing all we can to keep sites going safely in line with government guidelines.
“But that is not always possible and when it is productivity will naturally be down due to lower numbers of site workers and the ongoing materials supply problems.
“Everyone needs to work together on this. The worst thing the industry could do is turn on each other – we need to work together sensibly from clients downwards to get through this.”