Establishing a Safe & Healthy Plan
All workplaces — eg: owned or leased office space, retail stores or hospitality venues — will require carefully considered and detailed plans to reactivate their space. As different workplaces are at different stages of their phased reactivation plans, we have organised our guidance into three key categories:
- Reactivation Phase: Planning for a safe return to the workplace
- Recovery Phase: Bringing employees back to work andre-establishing operations
- Transformation & Revival Phase: Evolving to a ‘new normal’
Our guidance has been designed to offer practical considerations for safely reactivating workplaces. Individual businesses using this guidance should consider the specific actions needed for their workplace. We advise that this guidance should be read alongside (and not in substitute of) any corporate or legal obligations relating to health, safety, environment, employment. It is vital that businesses continue to meet their existing obligations.
Priority actions to take – what businesses need to do to protect staff and customers
Eight steps to protect yourself, your staff and your customers during coronavirus (all businesses)
- Complete a COVID-19 risk assessment. Share it with all your staff. Find out how to do a risk assessment.
- Clean more often. Increase how often you clean surfaces, especially those that are being touched a lot. Ask your staff and your visitors to use hand sanitiser and wash their hands frequently.
- Remind your visitors to wear face coverings where required to do so by law. That is especially important if your visitors are likely to be around people they do not normally meet. Some exemptions apply. Check when to wear one, exemptions, and how to make your own.
- Make sure everyone is social distancing. Make it easy for everyone to do so by putting up signs or introducing a one-way system that your staff and visitors can follow.
- Consider ventilation. Read advice on air conditioning and ventilation from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
- Take part in NHS Test and Trace by keeping a record of all staff and contractors for 21 days. Check ‘Maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace’ for details.
- Turn people with coronavirus symptoms away. If a staff member (or someone in their household) or a visitor has a persistent cough, a high temperature or has lost their sense of taste or smell, they should be isolating. Employers must not require someone who is being required to self-isolate to come to work. Any employer asking an employee to break self-isolation to work is committing an offence.
- Consider the mental health and wellbeing aspects of COVID-19 for yourself and others. The government has published guidance on the mental health and wellbeing aspects of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Offices, Contact Centres and Similar Indoor Environments
Five more things to be aware for people who work in or run offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments:
- Work from home unless it is unreasonable for you to do so. Office workers who can work from home should do so.
- Arrange work spaces to keep staff apart. Consider using barriers to separate people and introduce back-to-back or side-by-side working.
- Reduce face-to-face meetings. Encourage calls or video conferences to avoid in-person meetings with external contacts, or colleagues outside someone’s immediate team, wherever possible.
- Reduce crowding. Consider how many people can be in each space while remaining socially distant, and consider using booking systems for desks or rooms. Reduce the maximum occupancy for lifts.
- Communicate and train. Make sure all staff and visitors are kept up to date with the safety measures.
These are the priority actions to make your business safe during coronavirus. You should also read the full version of the guidance below.
Shop, Retail Stores and Branches
Four more things to be aware of if your business is a shop, retail store or a branch:
- Ensure staff wear face coverings. By law, staff in retail settings must wear face coverings when in customer facing areas, unless they have an exemption.
- Reduce crowding. Consider how many people can be in the space while remaining socially distant. Use floor markings to manage queues.
- Help your staff maintain social distancing. Consider using barriers to separate staff and customers, introduce back-to-back or side-to-side working, and have staff work in the same team each day.
- Communicate and train. Make sure all staff and customers are kept up to date with how safety measures are being used and updated.
These are the priority actions to make your business safe during coronavirus, you should also read the full version of the guidance below.
Restaurants, Pubs, Bars or Takeaway
Three more things to be aware of if your business is a restaurant, pub, bar or takeaway:
- Keep groups apart. Space out tables, consider using barriers between groups, and manage the number of customers in the venue. This is required by law. Manage the number of customers in the venue.
- Manage food and drink service safely. Avoid situations where customers need to collect their own cutlery and condiments. Avoid contact between staff and customers.
- Lower music and other background noise. Prevent shouting, singing and dancing in the venue by making sure music and broadcasts are played at a low volume.
These are the priority actions to make your business safe during coronavirus, you should also read the full version of the guidance below.
Objective: That all employers carry out a COVID19 risk assessment.
As an employer, you have a legal responsibility to protect workers and others from risk to their health and safety, including from the risks of COVID-19.
COVID-19 is a hazard in the workplace and, as such, should be managed in the same way as other workplace hazards. This includes completing a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks of COVID-19 in the workplace and identifying control measures to manage that risk.
Failure to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment and put in place sufficient control measures to manage the risk may be considered a breach of health and safety law.
Where the enforcing authority, such as the HSE or your local authority, identifies employers who are not taking action to comply with the relevant public health legislation and guidance to control public health risks, they are empowered to take a range of actions to improve control of workplace risks
Where serious breaches are identified HSE and Local Authorities have a range of measures they can take to ensure compliance. These include sending letters, serving improvement notices and prohibition notices and in cases where significant breaches are identified then prosecutions can be brought.
Your risk assessment will help you decide whether you have done everything you need to. There are interactive tools available to support you from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
You should also consider the security implications of any decisions and control measures you intend to put in place, as any revisions could present new or altered security risks that may require mitigation.
If you have fewer than 5 workers, or are self-employed, you don’t have to write anything down as part of your risk assessment, but you may decide it would be helpful to.
Employers have a duty to consult on health and safety matters. You can do this by listening and talking to them about the work they do and how you will manage the risks from COVID-19.
This may be through consulting with any recognised trade union health and safety representatives or, if you don’t have any, with a representative chosen by workers.
As an employer, you cannot decide who the representative will be. Employers and workers should always come together to resolve issues. If concerns still cannot be resolved, see below for further steps you can take.
Employers are expected to respond to any advice or notices issued by enforcing authorities rapidly and are required to do so within any timescales imposed by the enforcing authorities. The vast majority of employers are responsible and will join with the UK’s fight against COVID-19 by working with the government and their sector bodies to protect their workers and the public. However, inspectors are carrying out compliance checks nationwide to ensure that employers are taking the necessary steps.
Objective: Legally Compliant COVID-Secure Premises
Breach of Health and Safety Law
Where the enforcing authority, such as the HSE or your local authority, identifies employers who are not taking action to comply with the relevant public health legislation and guidance to control public health risks, they are empowered to take a range of actions to improve control of workplace risks. These actions include closure of venues under the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 3) Regulations 2020. For example, this would cover employers not taking appropriate action to ensure social distancing, where possible.
Failure to complete a risk assessment which takes account of COVID-19, or completing a risk assessment but failing to put in place sufficient measures to manage the risk of COVID-19, could constitute a breach of health and safety law. The actions the enforcing authority can take include the provision of specific advice to employers to support them to achieve the required standard, through to issuing enforcement notices to help secure improvements.
Serious breaches and failure to comply with enforcement notices can constitute a criminal offence, with serious fines and even imprisonment for up to 2 years. There is also a wider system of enforcement, which includes specific obligations and conditions for licensed premises.
All businesses now face strict legal measures to make their premises COVID-secure:
- employers must not knowingly require or encourage someone who is being required to self-isolate to come to work
- businesses must remind people to wear face coverings where they are required, for instance using signage
- employers must not, by law, prevent their staff from wearing a face covering where they are required to do so.
Food and drink venues, for consumption on their premises, require implementation of specific aspects of this guidance:
- not accept a table booking for a group of more than 6 individuals or admit a group of more than 6 people – exemptions apply
- take reasonable steps to prevent separate groups of 6 from mingling with each other
- ensure that tables of different groups are spaced 2m apart, or 1m plus mitigations, such as screens or barriers.
Failure to implement these measures could result in a fixed penalty notice of up to £10,000.
To address increasing virus transmission rates, food and drink venues face additional legal restrictions:
- businesses selling food or drink (including cafés, bars, pubs, restaurants and takeaways) must be closed between 10pm and 5am. Delivery services (including drive-through service) are exempt and can continue after 10pm provided they are not allowing customers on the premises. Bars and cafés within open premises, such as hotels or theatres, must also close at 10pm
- in venues which sell alcohol, food and drink must be ordered by, and served to, customers who are seated. This means that a business that sells alcohol must introduce systems to take orders from seated customers, instead of at a bar or counter. This has been introduced to prevent crowding and social contact in licensed premises
- all businesses selling food or drink must ensure that customers only consume food or drink while seated. This means that in unlicensed premises, food and drink can be purchased at a counter, but customers must sit down to consume it, even in outdoor settings
- remind customers and staff to wear face coverings where they are required, for example, through use of signage
- prevent singing in groups of more than 6 (or one household); prevent dancing by customers (other than by the couple at a wedding or civil partnership); and ensure that no loud music is played, to minimise the need for customers to shout to communicate
Employers must not knowingly require or encourage someone who is being required to self-isolate to come to work.
Employers are expected to respond to any advice or notices issued by enforcing authorities rapidly and are required to do so within any timescales imposed by the enforcing authorities.
The vast majority of employers are responsible and will join with the UK’s fight against COVID-19 by working with the government and their sector bodies to protect their workers and the public. However, inspectors are carrying out compliance checks nationwide to ensure that employers are taking the necessary steps.
Businesses must follow all instructions from authorities in the event of new local restrictions.
How to raise a concern
- contact your employee representative
- contact your trade union if you have one
- contact HSE at:
HSE COVID-19 enquiries
Telephone: 0300 790 6787
Online: working safely enquiry form
Objective: To reduce risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level by taking preventative measures, in order of priority.
Employers have a duty to reduce workplace risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level by taking preventative measures. Employers must work with any other employers or contractors sharing the workplace so that everybody’s health and safety is protected. In the context of COVID-19 this means protecting the health and safety of your workers and visitors by working through these steps in order:
- Ensuring both workers and visitors who feel unwell stay at home and do not attend the premises. From 28 September, by law businesses may not require a self-isolating employee to come into work.
- In every workplace, increasing the frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning.
- To help contain the virus, anyone who can work from home should do so over the winter. Public sector employees working in essential services, including education settings, should continue to go into work where necessary. Anyone else who cannot work from home should go to their place of work. The risk of transmission can be substantially reduced if COVID-19 secure guidelines are followed closely.
- Businesses and workplaces should make every reasonable effort to ensure their employees can work safely. When in the workplace, everyone should make every reasonable effort to comply with the social distancing guidelines set out by the government (2m, or 1m with risk mitigation where 2m is not viable).
- Where the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full, in relation to a particular activity, businesses should consider whether that activity can be redesigned to maintain a 2m distance or 1m with risk mitigations where 2m is not viable.
Further mitigating actions include:
– further increasing the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning
– keeping the activity time involved as short as possible
– using screens or barriers to separate people from each other– using back-to-back or side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible
– reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ (so each person works with only a few others)
- Where the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full, even through redesigning a particular activity, businesses should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to operate, and if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between their staff.
- You should ensure that steps are taken to avoid people needing to unduly raise their voices to each other. This includes, but is not limited to, refraining from playing music or broadcasts that may encourage shouting, including if played at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult. This is because of the potential for increased risk of transmission, particularly from aerosol transmission. We will develop further guidance, based on scientific evidence, to enable these activities as soon as possible.
- If people must work face-to-face for a sustained period with more than a small group of fixed partners, then you will need to assess whether the activity can safely go ahead. No one is obliged to work in an unsafe work environment.
- If your building has been unoccupied for a period during any lockdowns, consider legionella risk and HSE advice
It is also important that people from different households or support bubbles meeting in a single group remain socially distanced. Further information on social contact rules, social distancing and the exemptions that exist can be found here. These rules will not apply to workplaces or education settings, alongside other exemptions.
The recommendations in the rest of this document are ones you must consider as you go through this process. You could also consider any advice that has been produced specifically for your sector, for example by trade associations or trades unions.
If you are currently operating, you will already have carried out an assessment of the risks posed by COVID-19 in your workplace. Use this document to identify any further improvements you should make. You must review the measures you have put in place to make sure they are working. You should also review them if they may no longer be effective or if there are changes in the workplace that could lead to new risks.
You must share the results of your risk assessment with your workforce. If possible, you should consider publishing it on your website (and we would expect all businesses with over 50 employees to do so). We would expect all businesses to demonstrate to their workers and customers that they have properly assessed their risk and taken appropriate measures to mitigate this. You should do this by displaying a notification in a prominent place in your business and on your website, if you have one.