A message sent from our CEO to our members:

Dear FAME members,

The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has written an open letter to the construction industry stating that the government advice is that:

“… wherever possible, people should work at home. However, we know that for many people working in construction their job requires them to travel to their place of work, and they can continue to do so. This is consistent with the Chief Medical Officer’s advice. The industry has worked to develop Site Operating Procedures (SOP), which were published by the Construction Leadership Council. These align with the latest guidance from Public Health England.”

Clients are increasingly asking FAME members when sites can restart, in the light of this letter.

There are two significant issues that we believe will impact many of our members in this regard. One is the current government support programmes. We have posted details of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme on our website https://famearchaeology.co.uk/coronavirus-covid-19-and-archaeology/ though one aspect that might be overlooked is that if employees are to be furloughed, this must be for a minimum of three weeks or you lose the grant for them. FAME members who have staff already on furlough should make their clients aware of this fact, some clients might be willing to cover that lost funding to get people back on site.

Some members have raised concerns that because of this letter the Government could deny furlough support. We have reviewed the current regulations and there is no mechanism for the Government to second guess who can be furloughed or not.  You, with your staff’s consent, decide who is furloughed, not the Government.

The second aspect is health and safety. FAME considers that the CLC Site Operating Procedures, set as the standard by Secretary of State in his letter, are the appropriate minimum for on-site work, and that FAME members should use these, supported by the CIEEM Advice on Covid-19 and Undertaking Site-Based Ecological Work as guidance as a bases to undertake their own risk assessments and to implement appropriate measures to ensure safe working practices. The SOP and CIEEM advice are likely to be updated as events and guidance change, with the CIEEM advice being updated yesterday. We will be updating our own Health and Safety recommendations which can be found on our website https://famearchaeology.co.uk/coronavirus-covid-19-and-archaeology/

The Employment Rights Act 1996 allows any employee to stop work or refuse to go to work if they feel unsafe without any repercussions. This is based on their own opinions of the situation. Moreover, employers have a duty of care to their employees. If you or your staff do not believe work can continue safely but are being asked to by a client then this might be grounds to have a frustrated contract – more details on frustrated contracts can be found here – https://bateswells.co.uk/2020/03/coronavirus-and-contractual-obligations/

Where a trade union is recognised in the workplace, FAME strongly recommends that members engage with their recognised union to discuss furloughing and staff health and safety.


Kenneth Aitchison, CEO FAME

PS – following on from the Construction Leadership Council (CLC)’s Site Operating Procedures, the CLC have today written to the Prime Minister with a plan to sustain the construction industry and accelerate recovery of the economy, which FAME welcomes.