CIEEM supports all efforts that the governments of the UK, the Irish Government, and society are taking to reduce the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We strongly advise our members to bear in mind the spirit of what is trying to be achieved, and to do their utmost to support it. We believe that our members will make decisions that are right for their individual situations, with safety and helping to minimise any risk of spreading the disease, as the paramount considerations.
If you do undertake site-based work, we have provided guidance (revised 6 July 2020) on how to do so safely.
We have further published Guidance on Ecological Survey and Assessment in the UK During the COVID-19 Outbreak (Version 3) (29 June 2020) and Guidance on Ecological Survey and Assessment in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland During the COVID-19 Outbreak (30 May 2020). These guidance documents have been drafted by experienced ecologists as a tool to help members continue to undertake ecological survey and assessment during the restrictions necessitated by the COVID-19 outbreak, where they can do so safely.
We encourage all members, in undertaking work, to be considerate of and sensitive to local communities. At the same time you may need to be assertive with individuals/groups (or their superiors) that are not following social distancing and other safety measures.
Information on national and local restrictions and lockdowns can be found by following the links on the COVID-19 background information webpage.
The UK government has published specific guidance for ‘outdoor businesses’ on the ‘Social distancing in the workplace during Coronavirus (COVID-19): sector guidance’ webpage.
Following direct correspondence with Defra, CIEEM has received a letter from the Ministerial Contact Unit (dated 9 April 2020) clarifying how Coronavirus guidance relates to ecological and environmental professionals in England. The letter states that: “Ecologists and environmental professionals should therefore be able to continue with outdoor work, including ecological surveying and supervision, where they can continue to follow Public Health England guidelines.” And that “… the cessation of environmental survey works would risk causing later delays in the development sector. We would like to thank CIEEM and other environmental professional associations for offering advice to help their members adhere to Government guidelines whilst going about their important work.” Please do read the full letter and consider the UK Government guidance before deciding on the course of action for you and/or your business.
The UK Government has published a recovery strategy.
Defra and Natural England have published advice in relation to COVID-19 and working with mammals. Natural England has further stated that the guidance does include mitigation licences that involve mammal handling, and that they expect anyone acting under a licence which involves interactions with mammals to comply with this guidance as a minimum precaution. Relevant licences will refer to the guidance in licence notes or conditions.
A “Coronavirus circuit break” will take effect in Wales at 6pm on Friday 23 October. The restrictions apply to people resident in Wales: people must stay at home, except for very limited purposes; people must not visit other households or meet other people they do not live with; and certain businesses and venues, including bars, restaurants and most shops must close (this includes hotels/cafes). It permits people resident in Wales to travel to work (within and outside Wales) and permits people resident in England to travel into Wales to work, although overnight stays could be problematic.
You can find out more about the restrictions on the Welsh Government’s Coronavirus circuit break: FAQs webpage.
Following direct correspondence with Welsh Government, CIEEM has a letter from Julie James AC/AM, Minister for Housing and Local Government (dated 4 May 2020) clarifying the continuation of ecological work during Covid-19 restrictions in Wales. The letter states: “The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) Regulations 2020 (“Coronavirus Regulations”) prohibit people from leaving or remaining away from the place where they live without reasonable excuse. One of the reasonable excuses is the need to travel for the purposes of work where it is not reasonably practicable for that person to work from where they are living. As you point out in your letter, undertaking ecological field work or studies is one of these examples. The Chief Planner wrote to local planning authorities on 29 April to provide guidance on this, and a number of other practical planning issues, confirming our expectation that the planning system will continue to function during this difficult time.”
Please do read the full letter and consider the guidelines as set out by the Welsh Government, and the associated guidance for employers and businesses, before deciding on the course of action for you and/or your business.
On 24 April 2020, the Welsh Government published its framework for recovery, explaining how it will “lead Wales out of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis in a way that keeps everyone safe and revitalises our economy as quickly as possible”.
Natural Resources Wales has updated the Countryside Code to reflect the current COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing measures.
The current measures for Scotland have been published by Scottish Government, with further information also published on Phase 3 of Scotland’s Route Plan.
If approved by the Scottish Parliament, from Monday 2 November 2020, a new five tier system (Levels 0-4) will come into effect in Scotland. Outdoor work areas and construction can still work with protection measures in place even at Level 4, but members may need to check travel restrictions into/out of areas in different tiers.
The Scottish Government has published guidance on safe working in support of restarting outdoor forestry and a range of environmental management activities, including peatland restoration, wildlife and nature reserve management, and ecological surveys and research. This was clarified in a response to a Parliamentary Question S5W-29683 answered on 15 June 2020.
We have confirmation that formal survey and monitoring work is categorised under ‘ecological surveys and research‘. Such work can proceed outwith the ‘broadly 5-mile’ threshold that remains in existence for other outdoor leisure activities, as long as the FISA guidance is followed, noting in particular the essential requirement for appropriate risk assessments.
We advise all ecologists to operate within the spirit of the broader guidance published by the Scottish Government, ideally staying within a short distance of your local community and “travelling by walk, wheel and cycle” wherever possible. Do be respectful that in rural environments local people are very sensitive to the presence of unfamiliar vehicles, and are anxious to ensure that risks of virus transmission are kept to a minimum.
New restrictions were implemented in Northern Ireland on 16 October 2020, and will be in place for four weeks. Please visit the link to find out more.
Members working in Northern Ireland should follow the guidelines as set out by the Northern Irish Government, and the associated guidance for business and employers. As noted above, social distancing and hygiene protocols must be followed at all times. Employers should review their working practices to ensure that social distancing can be implemented, particularly for indoor work and transport. CIEEM has provided guidance for site work, which emphasises a Dynamic Risk Assessment approach, keeping the risks under review throughout the activity.
Check NI Direct for advice regarding travel.
Republic of Ireland
The Republic is currently under restrictions labelled as Levels 1-5, and will be going into national Level 5 from midnight on Wednesday 21 October 2020 (for 6 weeks but with a review after 4 weeks). Members and others working in the sector should note that only essential services can operate over this time, but importantly what comprises an essential service has been amended. As previously, it includes professional, scientific and technical activities which some work may fall under, but now also includes Construction and Development activities (“(a) construction or development work and the provision of support services relating to construction and development work”) as well as Public Administration, emergency services and defence (“(j) the operation and maintenance of botanical gardens, parks, forests, nature reserves and playgrounds” and “(k) activities relating to the management, protection, restoration and conservation of protected species, habitats and designated natural, archaeological and built heritage sites“).
Guidance for “Work” for each Level states:
- “Work from home if possible. You can attend work for specific business requirements and on a staggered attendance basis.”
- “Work from home if possible. If you can work from home, you are advised to only attend work for essential on-site meetings, inductions and training.”
- “Work from home unless absolutely necessary to attend in person.”
- “Only essential or other designated workers should go to work.” See lists of essential services and essential retailers. Note that construction and development, forestry, and scientific services are listed as essential.
- “Work from home unless it is for working in health, social care or other essential service and cannot be done from home.”
On 15 September 2020, the Irish Government published Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19. “The Framework for Restrictive Measures is a risk management strategy for the next 6-9 months.”
CIEEM has provided guidance for site work, which emphasises a Dynamic Risk Assessment approach, keeping the risks under review throughout the activity.
This webpage was last updated on 26 October 2020.