The COVID-19 global pandemic has turned the world as we know it upside down; with lots of new laws, regulations and restrictions, everyone is trying to adapt to the new normal.
After the first national lockdown, many businesses had to invest and make lots of changes in order to reopen and ensure their staff & customer safety.
On the 11th of May, the government published a guide for businesses to follow to make sure they could reopen, once lockdown eased. These have been updated as time has gone on and as we have learned more about the virus, with 14 guides covering a range of different industries health and safety policies.
There are 7 basic steps all businesses can take to protect you, your staff and your customers, these include:
- COVID-19 Risk Assessments – All businesses must complete a COVID-19 risk assessment which specifically looks at the risk the virus poses and how this risk can be reduced in workplaces. Once completed, all staff should be made aware to ensure everyone on site is following the new guidance.
- Increased Cleaning & Hand-washing – Employers should increase the frequency of cleaning of all surfaces, especially high-touch areas (e.g. light switch, door handles, etc). Plus all staff and customers should be encouraged to increase their hand-washing/hand sanitising, with more facilities made available if necessary.
- Customers & Staff Face Coverings – When working inside all staff and customers (unless exempt) should wear a face covering, as required by law – noncompliance could lead to hefty fines.
- Social Distancing – Everyone should be following the social distancing rules, staying 2-meters apart at all times (1-meter where 2 is not viable). Employers should implement one way systems and have signs/stickers to help remind staff and customers.
- Increased Ventilation – Ventilation systems should be kept on while the business is open, with doors & windows opened (where possible) to increase the airflow in the building.
- NHS Track and Trace – Businesses are required to take part in the test and trace system by law – recording customer, visitor and staff details for 21 days.
- Anyone With COVID-19 Symptoms is Turned Away – If any member of staff or customers are displaying COVID-19 symptoms (or members of their household) they should be turned away and advised to self-isolate, for example – high fever, persistent dry cough or loss of smell/taste.
The New Rule of 6
On the 14th of September, the government announced additional national COVID-19 restrictions meaning social groups should be limited to 6 people, inside and outside, with a few exemptions. The exemptions include – weddings, funerals, workplaces, places of worship, support bubbles, childcare and schools. Individuals found in groups of more than 6 can be fined £200, which doubles with each breach up to £6400.
This rule varies slightly across the UK – England applies this new rule to all people regardless of the age or setting of the group, with no limit on the number of households allowed to meet. In Scotland, two households can meet in groups of up to 6, with children under 12 not counted.
In Wales, up to four households can form an extended household which can meet in groups of 6 (children under 11 not included). People in Northern Ireland can no longer mix with other households, with exemptions of ‘bubbling’ which allows up to 10 people from two households; children under 12 are not counted.
Premises that are COVID-secure are allowed to have more than 6 people in total, but each group should have 6 or fewer individuals – This will have a huge impact on many businesses across different sectors. Venues found to be breaching this rule could face fines up to £10,000.
How Will the Rule of 6 Affect Businesses?
This new rule will affect so many businesses across the UK, with the new tiered system of local lockdowns, people are worried that some businesses may be forced to close permanently. Especially now, as from the 12th of October, the government introduced 3 tiers of lockdown for local areas – medium, high and very high (1st, 2nd & 3rd).
The first tier is made up of the current national restrictions, including the rule of 6 with most sectors remaining open. The second tier however, means that different households can no longer mix indoors even if they’re in a group of 6 or less, but outdoors the normal rule of 6 still applies – This means unless your business has an outdoor area, people from different households can no longer meet in your premises.
Finally, the third tier inhibits different households from mixing indoors or in private gardens, public spaces (e.g. parks) have the normal rule of 6 applied – but some sectors will be forced to close down once again.
For areas in this tier, there will be a huge impact on business across all sectors due to reduced sales. In these areas the government will offer financial aid to businesses which is a huge relief for many – although, it won’t be as generous as the furlough system.
With winter fast approaching, many businesses rely on increased trade over the Christmas period. This new rule means that even in areas with the eased restrictions, businesses can no longer host Christmas parties or group events – this could have a serious impact on a company’s finances.
This pandemic has already impacted not just the UK but the global economy, with cases on the rise again and the new restrictions on how many people can meet, businesses across the UK will be struggling to make ends meet again.
With less customers and less income, companies may be forced to make more staff redundant, having devastating effects on people’s finances, mental health and the economy in general. There are calls from all over the country for the government to provide further support for businesses, to protect Britons’ jobs while also protecting their health.
If your business needs any guidance on implementing new policies to ensure premises are COVID secure then reach out to our health and safety consultants by using the details below.