Although many may have suspected a toughening of guidelines in response to the increased spread of Covid-19, the Government announcement made yesterday (22nd September) serves as no less of a blow for businesses attempting a recovery from the lockdown during the summer months.
The following is an overview of the key measures being taken, which, according to the Prime Minister, could be in place for up to six (6) months;
A key element affecting a great number of businesses, is the change in emphasis on work location, reverting back to the ‘work from home where possible‘ message. Although some employers have continued with this approach throughout, others have spent significant time, energy and resource into returning to the workplace in recent months. In either case, this undoubtedly impacts on operational activity and future plans for many organisations.
It is important to note that home-working should be undertaken where an employer (in consultation with their employee) judges that they can carry out their normal duties from home. Where this is not possible, employees should continue to attend at their normal place of work, but employers must also remain up-to-date and compliant on their obligations to ensure a safe working environment for all – adhering to the COVID-19 secure guidelines. It is also important to give extra consideration to those employees at higher risk.
Hospitality and Leisure Industries
A number of other changes will impact heavily on the hospitality and leisure industries, one that has already been hit hard by the ongoing pandemic and, for some, the impact of Covid-19 only proved to compound the business interruption sustained from localised flooding during the winter months.
The good news however, is that these businesses can remain open, with the following conditions in place;
- From Thursday 24th September, hospitality venues selling food or drink, must remain closed between 10pm and 5am (take-away delivery services can continue after 10pm)
- As of 24th September, premises selling food and drink to be consumed indoors, will require customers to eat and drink at a table
- Table service must also be used for ordering and serving food and drinks in licensed venues
- Hospitality staff and customers must wear face-coverings at all times, other than when seated to eat or drink
Wider Business Community and Public Areas
Other areas of guidance affecting businesses generally, include;
- From 24th September, there will be a need to display the official NHS QR code posters for customers to ‘check-in’ at different premises, once the app is rolled out nationally (as an alternative to providing their contact details)
- As of 28th September, organisations will face stricter rules to make their premises COVID Secure
- A wider range of leisure and entertainment venues, services provided in community centres, and close contact services will be subject to the COVID-19 Secure requirements in law (with fines of up to £10,000 for repeated breaches).
- 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 mandated
- From 24th September it will be a legal requirement for face coverings and visors to be worn in close contact services
- The wearing of face covering remains advised for those working on public transport and taxi drivers, and they must be worn by customers in private hire vehicles and taxis
Please note that a fine of £200 may now be issued for a first offence, to those who fail to wear a face covering where required, or break the ‘rule of six’. Those who are already exempt from the existing face covering obligations, for reasons such as an underlying health condition, will continue to be exempt from these new obligations.
Social Gatherings and Events
The following updated rules regarding social gathering and events, will also impact significantly on both our personal lives and our business activities;
- From 24th September, support groups must be limited to a maximum of 15 people
- As of 24th September, indoor organised sport for over 18s will no longer be exempt from the ‘rule of six’ (there is an exemption for indoor organised team sports for disabled people)
- From 24th September a new exemption will be in place in those areas of local intervention where household mixing is not allowed, to permit friends and family to provide informal childcare for children under 14
- From 28th September, the number of people permitted to attend weddings, civil partnership ceremonies and receptions will be reduced from 30 to 15 (permitted attendance at funerals remains at 30)
- As of 28th September, all other significant standalone life events will be subject to the ‘rule of six’ limits
- Plans to re-open business conferences, exhibition halls and large sporting events with effect from 1st October have now been postponed
Continued Good Practice
The following practice continues to be a ‘fundamental’ tool in fighting the spread of Covid-19 and should be encouraged in the workplace;
- HANDS – Wash hands regularly and for at least 20 seconds
- FACE – Cover face in enclosed spaces, especially where social distancing may be difficult and contact will be made with different people
- SPACE – Stay 2 metres apart where possible, or 1 metre with extra precautions in place
These measures apply to England and there may be different rules if you live in an area under local lockdown. If you are in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, different rules may apply.