Guidance to workers across the UK/Letters of Comfort
UK Government guidance
The core UK Government message is ‘Stay alert’ and guidance to help employers, employees and the self-employed understand how to work safely has been produced. In England, businesses are encouraged to re-open and people to return to work if they can’t work from home: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
The government, in consultation with umbrella industry bodies, has produced guidance to help ensure workplaces are as safe as possible. Eight guides have been produced, covering a range of different work. Many businesses operate more than one type of workplace, such as an office, factory and fleet of vehicles. You may need to use more than one of these guides as you think through what you need to do to keep people safe: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19
Confor will ensure these guides are utilised when updating and developing safe working protocols – see ‘Safe working’ below.
When lock-down was first announced, Confor began a successful effort to secure recognition of the sector’s role in producing critical products – identified by the Defra as: "Those involved in the supply chain of wood for key goods (including, but not limited to pallets, heating, packaging, tissue paper, timber harvesting and sawmills)." This also includes agricultural fencing.
This designation provided helpful clarity for those still working away from their home when lock-down was announced in March. Now that such guidance has changed in England, the focus here is on Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Guidance in devolved administrations
Scotland: Route Map through and out of crisis (updated May 28th)
Northern Ireland: advice here
Scotland: updated guidance
The Scottish Government "route map through and out of the crisis" is based on a 5-phase plan, with Phase 1 taking effect from 29th May. It provides an indication of the order in which the Scottish Government will seek to lift current restrictions, but doesn't specify dates for all later phases. Phase 1 includes outdoor working and all aspects of foresty activity. Phase 2 (date not fixed, depends on progress with Phase 1) states: “Indoor, non-office based workplaces can resume, once relevant guidance has been agreed – including factories and warehouses….”.
However, Confor secured recognition of essential products – pallets/packaging, agricultural fencing and biomass – so all mills producing these products can continue or, where appropriate, restart.
Additionally, there is an acceptance that for critical supply chains to operate, board mills need to be able to take sawmill co-product. They also provide materials vital for critical infrastructure, including the fit-out of Nightingale hospitals.
Safe guidance for forestry has been developed by Confor and FCA, and this was then taken forward by FISA, which is set to publish a formal protocol for in-forest activity. Confor also developed a safe-working protocol for nurseries (see below) and is finalising a protocol for mills. With these in place, we satisfy the requirements to move forward.
If you are challenged for working
Some members have told us they have been challenged - or fear being challenged - about continuing to work. In response, we produced guidance and letters of comfort which people in the sector working away from home can carry to show to anyone challenging them.
Letter of comfort (Scotland)
Guidance for non-key workers (Scotland)
Letter of comfort: key workers (Scotland)
Letter of comfort (Wales)
Letter of comfort: key workers (Wales)
Letter of comfort: key workers (Northern Ireland)