COVID-19: Essential Working Information

Updated: 21/04/20

The Institute has received a significant number of enquiries from our members seeking clarification around the recently implemented restrictions on working practices. The government has not stipulated that all businesses should close and have advised that people can go to work if they cannot do so from home.

The UK Government’s document, Staying at home and away from others (social distancing), states:

If you cannot work from home then you can still travel to work, provided you are well and neither you nor any of your household are self-isolating. This is consistent with advice from the Chief Medical Officer.

Employers who have people in their offices or onsite should ensure that employees are able to follow established guidelines on social distancing, including maintaining a 2-metre distance from others, and washing their hands with soap and water often for at least 20 seconds (or using hand sanitiser gel if soap and water is not available).’

On Tuesday 7 April, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy published updated advice for businesses. The following guidance for “Outdoor Businesses” may apply to you:

This applies to businesses situated outdoors – market stalls, farms, quarries, commercial forests or other outdoor businesses – where it is not possible for workers to observe social distancing guidelines at all times.

Where it is not possible to follow the social distancing guidelines in full in relation to a particular activity, you should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to continue to operate, and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between staff.

If a 2 metre distance cannot be maintained, staff should work side by side, or facing away from each other, rather than face to face if possible.

You should communicate to all staff that they should wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or more and more frequently than normal.

If workers have to share enclosed spaces such as the cabs of vehicles, they should keep the window open for ventilation and they should be careful to avoid touching their face at all times. On leaving the enclosed space, they should wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or more or use hand sanitiser when they cannot wash their hands.

If customer-facing, you should consider how you can safely sell your products or services without encouraging crowds and ensure hygiene measures are in place. This could be done by taking orders online or by telephone in advance and pre-packing orders to limit face-to-face time, or considering delivery services if possible. When interacting with customers, you should maintain a 2 metre distance as much as possible.

To protect your staff, you should remind colleagues daily to only come into work if they are well and no one in their household is self-isolating.

In Scotland, the guidance is slightly different and emphasises that for people who can’t work at home, only those involved in supporting production of essential goods and service or critical nation infrastructure should continue to go to work. The Scottish Government’s Coronavirus (COVID-19): business and social distancing guidance was updated on Tuesday 21 April and also highlights the requirements for all business which remain open during the emergency period. There are three new measures introduced in this guidance:

  • requiring people to stay at home, except for very limited purposes (including travelling for work purposes, but only where they cannot work from home)
  • closing certain business and venues (see section below on businesses and premises which must close)
  • stopping all gatherings of more than two people in public

Please read the full guidance for details on the Scottish businesses that are, and are not, allowed to remain open.

In Wales, the Welsh Government have published regulations which enable enforcement of the guidelines set by the UK Government and WHO where the principles remain the same. Their message reiterates the importance of staying at home to save lives and minimising the risk of transmission in the workplace. There are strict requirements and restrictions for businesses, services and individuals it is against the law to leave your home without a reasonable excuse. You should only travel to work if it is not reasonably practicable to work from home.

Both businesses and individuals are responsible for setting their own working practices whilst ensuring they remain compliant with the latest government advice at all times. As this advice is likely to be updated frequently over the next few weeks, make sure to keep checking our website for the latest information.

We are fully supportive of any measures implemented to help reduce the spread of Coronavirus and alleviate pressure on our health system.

Useful Links

ConforCOVID-19 forestry and wood information hub
Forestry Commission – statement on COVID-19
Defra – summary of the latest news from Defra related to COVID-19
Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategyguidance for employers/businesses
UK Government – general up-to-date information

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