Support for businesses

Coronavirus advice and guidance for business

***This advice has been updated from 10 December 2021***

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Social distancing and face coverings

The UK Government has announced a move to Plan B restriction measures in England, as outlined in the Covid-19 Autumn/Winter Plan.

These measures will come into force while more data on vaccine efficacy is assessed. The Government says that moving to Plan B will help to slow the spread of the Omicron variant and reduce the chances of the NHS coming under unsustainable pressure, while buying time to deliver more boosters.

The measures announced are:

  1. From 10 December mandatory face covering rules are extended to most indoor settings (but will not include hospitality settings).
  2. From 13 December the guidance is for people to work from home if they can. Anyone who cannot work from home should continue to travel to their workplace.
  3. From 15 Dec there will be mandatory certification for certain settings. This will mean a requirement to show vaccination status or a recent negative test to enter certain high risk settings.

These measures are in addition to:

  • A continued push on testing, with a focus on testing to enable. This includes people testing before they meet others, socialise or go to crowded or enclosed places.
  • A continued push on vaccines and boosters - being fully vaccinated is the best way for people to protect themselves against catching Covid-19.
  • Continued messaging on ventilation - let in fresh air when meeting indoors.

New Covid-19 guidance from 10 December 2021:

  • Face coverings is mandatory in Shops, and other settings such as banks, post offices and hairdressers.

Face coverings are required in the following settings (this list is not intended to be exhaustive):

  • shops and supermarkets (places which offer goods or services for retail sale or hire)
  • auction houses
  • post offices, banks, building societies, high street solicitors and accountants, credit unions, short-term loan providers, savings clubs and money service businesses
  • estate and letting agents
  • premises providing personal care and beauty treatments (barbers, hair salons, tattoo and piercing studios, nail salons and massage centres)
  • pharmacies
  • premises providing veterinary services
  • retail galleries
  • retail travel agents
  • public facing funeral offices
  • takeaways without space for consumption of food or drink on premises
  • shopping centres (malls and indoor markets)
  • community centres (including village halls), youth centres, members clubs and social clubs
  • libraries and public reading rooms
  • polling stations and premises used for the counting of votes
  • places of worship
  • crematoria and burial ground chapels
  • visitor attractions and entertainment venues (museums, galleries, cinemas, indoor theatres, concert halls, cultural and heritage sites, indoor areas at aquariums, zoos and visitor farms, bingo halls, amusement arcades, adventure activity centres, indoor sports stadiums, funfairs, indoor theme parks, casinos, skating rinks, bowling alleys, indoor play areas including soft-play areas)
  • public areas in hotels and hostels
  • indoor areas of open-air sports stadiums
  • public transport (aeroplanes, trains, trams, buses, coaches and ferries), taxis and private hire vehicles
  • cars or small vans during any professionally delivered driving lesson, during any driving test, and during any practical test to qualify as an approved driving instructor
  • heavy goods vehicle (HGVs) during any driving lesson and during any driving test
  • driving theory test centres
  • transport hubs (airports, rail and tram stations and terminals, maritime ports and terminals, bus and coach stations and terminals)
  • motorway service areas

This information is kept under constant review and is subject to change. 

Do you need to display face covering notices?

The new rules require businesses where wearing a face covering is mandatory to display notices on their premises giving information about that requirement. Posters on wearing face coverings can be downloaded by businesses:

Face coverings information leaflet for businesses 
Face coverings poster for businesses A4
Face coverings poster for businesses A3..

The Council has also created social distancing posters for you to display for the exterior and interior of your businesses, to remind customers to maintain social distancing:

Social distancing for businesses poster A3  
Social distancing for businesses poster A4.

Enforcement measures for failing to comply with this law

Settings in which face coverings are required must display signage or take other measures to ensure customers are aware of the requirement to wear a face covering on their premises where there is no applicable exemption or reasonable excuse.

The police and police community support officers can enforce compliance if members of the public do not comply with this law without a reasonable excuse. Transport operators can deny access to their public transport services, or direct someone to wear a face covering or to leave a service, if not wearing one without a legitimate reason. Local authority enforcement officers can also use their enforcement powers against businesses for failing to display appropriate signage or breaching the prohibition against preventing someone from wearing a face covering.

If necessary, the police and Transport for London (TfL) officers have enforcement powers, including issuing fixed penalties of £200 for the first offence (reduced to £100 if paid within 14 days).

Repeat offenders receiving penalties for breaching the requirements to wear face coverings will have their penalty doubled for each subsequent offence.

After the first offence there will be no discount. For example, a second penalty would be £400, a third £800, up to a maximum of £6,400. Any penalties issued under the 2020 regulations that were in force until earlier this year will not count towards the accumulation of fines levied under the new regulations.

When you do not need to wear a face covering

Settings which are exempt from wearing a face covering because it would not be practical to do so include:

  • restaurants, cafés and canteens
  • pubs, bars and shisha bars
  • gyms and exercise facilities (including dance studios)
  • leisure centres, swimming pools, and water and aqua parks
  • photography studios
  • nightclubs, dance halls and discotheques

Customers, visitors or staff may choose to wear face coverings in these settings. Businesses cannot prevent staff, visitors or customers from wearing a face covering in these settings if they choose to wear one, and it is an offence to do so.

Singing

There is a reasonable excuse for someone to remove a face covering when it is reasonably necessary for them to sing, for example, if they are singing as part of a choir, or during a service, rehearsal or for a performance.

This does not extend to circumstances where it is not reasonably necessary to sing. For example, it may not be reasonably necessary for someone to sing whilst shopping, on public transport, or whilst in an in-scope setting such as a cinema, theatre or library.

This change allows those who are taking part in activities where singing is reasonably necessary to choose to remove their face covering if they prefer while singing.

If you are not able to wear a face covering

In settings where face coverings are required in England, there are some circumstances where people may not be able to wear a face covering.

Please be mindful and respectful of such circumstances. Some people are less able to wear face coverings, and the reasons for this may not be visible to others.

This includes (but is not limited to):

  • children under the age of 11 (The UK Health Security Agency does not recommend face coverings for children under the age of 3 for health and safety reasons)
  • people who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
  • people for whom putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause severe distress
  • people speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate
  • to avoid the risk of harm or injury to yourself or others
  • police officers and other emergency workers, given that this may interfere with their ability to serve the public

There are also scenarios when you are permitted to remove a face covering:

  • if asked to do so for identification in premises such as a bank, building society or post office
  • if asked to do so by shop staff or relevant employees for identification, for assessing health recommendations (for example by a pharmacist) or for age identification purposes, including when buying age restricted products such as alcohol
  • in order to take medication
  • when it is reasonably necessary to sing, for example – as part of a choir, service, rehearsal or performance

Exemption cards

If you have an age, health or disability reason for not wearing a face covering:

  • you do not routinely need to show any written evidence of this
  • you do not need to show an exemption card

This means that you do not need to seek advice or request a letter from a medical professional about your reason for not wearing a face covering.

However, some people may feel more comfortable showing something that says they do not have to wear a face covering. This could be in the form of an exemption card, badge or even a home-made sign.

Carrying an exemption card or badge is a personal choice and is not required by law.

If you wish to use an exemption card or badge, you can download exemption card templates. You can then print these yourself or show them on a mobile device. Please note that the government is not able to provide physical exemption cards or badges.

If you use assistive technology (such as a screen reader) and need a version of these templates in a more accessible format, please email [email protected]. Please say what format you need the template in and what assistive technology you use.

Face coverings at work

Staff in indoor settings
Staff within a relevant place, except some transport workers and those working in premises providing legal or financial services, are required to wear face coverings when they are in a part that is open to the public and when they are likely to come into close contact with members of the public, such as on a shop floor.

For other indoor settings, employers and businesses should consider whether to ask their staff, customers or visitors to wear a face covering.

Employers and businesses should also be aware that staff may choose to wear a face covering in exempt settings listed in ‘When you do not need to wear a face covering’ above, even if not required, and it is an offence to prevent them from doing so.

For advice on how to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in your workplaces, please check the government’s working safely guidance.

Who can take enforcement action?

The police, community support officers and Transport for London (TfL) officers have enforcement powers to enforce compliance if members of the public do not comply with these new measures without a reasonable excuse.

As a local authority our enforcement officers can also use their enforcement powers against businesses for failing to display appropriate signage or breaching the prohibition against preventing someone from wearing a face covering.

Regulations to help employers, employees and the self-employed understand how to work safely during the coronavirus pandemic is available on gov.uk. Specific guides are available for a number of industries, including:

  • Restaurants, pubs, bars, nightclubs and takeaway services
  • Shops and branches (including indoor and outdoor markets).
  • Events and attractions
  • Construction and other outdoor work
  • Offices, factories and labs.

Venues where the NHS COVID Pass is required for visitors

Nightclubs, dance halls and discotheques

You must always prove your vaccine-or-test COVID-19 status to visit all nightclubs, dance halls and discotheques.

You do not need to prove your vaccination status if:

  • the venue is not acting as a nightclub (for example by closing their dancefloor)
  • they are holding an exempt event (see the Exempt activities section below)

Other venues acting as nightclubs, dancehalls and discotheques

You must also prove your COVID-19 status to visit all other venues that:

  • are open at any point between 1am and 5am
  • serve alcohol after 1am
  • have a dancefloor (or space for dancing)
  • provide music, whether live or recorded, for dancing

Unless they are holding an exempt event (see the Exempt activities section below).

Venues meeting these criteria must make sure that everyone in the venue from 1am is vaccinated, has completed a recent negative test, or is exempt (unless the venue is holding an event which is exempt).

Venues can choose how they do this. For example, if you’re attending a venue, such as a late night bar with a dancefloor, you may have to prove your COVID-19 status to gain access, even if you enter and leave before 1am.

Events where the NHS COVID Pass is required for visitors

You must also prove your COVID-19 status to visit:

  • indoor events with 500 or more attendees, where those attendees are likely to stand or move around for all or part of the event (such as music venues with standing audiences, or large receptions)
  • outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees, where those attendees are likely to stand or move around for all or part of the event (such as outdoor festivals)
  • any events with 10,000 or more attendees, whether indoor or outdoor (such as large sports and music events)

Events are defined as including:

  • an entertainment, a performance or similar occasion
  • a competition, race, match or other sporting event
  • a celebration, ball, reception or other organised social event
  • a conference, presentation, business reception, trade show or exhibition, award show or a charitable auction

Do you need to carry out a risk assessment?

The requirement remains to carry out a risk assessment and have one in place, as employers have a duty of care to protect people from harm. Steps to managing and controlling risks can be found on gov.uk

Businesses are only allowed to reopen if they comply with the government’s guidance on managing the risk of COVID-19.

Guidance on whether staff should wear face coverings can be found in the relevant industry guidance for the business.

While not mandatory, you should continue to wear a face covering in indoor places, which are crowded and enclosed and where you may come into contact with people you do not normally meet.

There are some circumstances where people may not be able to wear a face covering. Please be mindful and respectful of such circumstances. Some people are less able to wear face coverings, and the reasons for this may not be visible to others.