Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)

Offices and contact centres

Guidance for people who work in or run offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments.

Applies to: England (see guidance for Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland)

COVID-19 roadmap

Step 3 of the roadmap out of lockdown has begun. Some of the rules changed on 17 May 2021, but restrictions remain in place.

A new COVID-19 variant is spreading in some parts of England. There may be additional advice for your area. Find out what you need to do.

This guide was updated on 17 May 2021.

What’s changed

We’ve now moved to Step 3.

National restrictions – Spring 2021

On 22 February the government published the COVID-19 Response - Spring 2021 setting out how COVID-19 restrictions will be eased over 4 steps.

The roadmap has set out indicative, ‘no earlier than’ dates for the steps which are 5 weeks apart. It takes around 4 weeks for the data to reflect the impact of the previous step and the government will provide a further week’s notice to individuals and businesses before making changes.

Offices and contact centres can open under all steps, if they’re COVID-secure. Office workers should continue to work from home where they can.

Priority actions to take - what businesses need to do to protect staff and customers

Eight steps to protect yourself, your staff and your customers.

1. Complete a COVID-19 risk assessment

Complete a risk assessment, considering the reasonable adjustments needed for staff and customers with disabilities. Share it with all your staff. Find out how to do a risk assessment.

2. Clean more often

Especially surfaces that people touch a lot. You should ask your staff and your customers to use hand sanitiser and wash their hands frequently.

3. Remind your visitors to wear face coverings where the law says they must

This is especially important if your customers 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.

4. Make sure everyone can maintain social distancing

Make it easy for everyone to do so by putting up signs or introducing a one-way system your customers can follow.

5. Provide adequate ventilation

This means supplying fresh air to enclosed space where people are present. It can be natural ventilation through windows, doors and vents, mechanical ventilation using fans and ducts, or a combination of both.Read advice on air conditioning and ventilation from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

6. Take part in NHS Test and Trace

Keep 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.

7. Turn people with COVID-19 symptoms away

Staff members or customers should self-isolate if they or someone in their household has a persistent cough, a high temperature or has lost their sense of taste or smell. If someone is self-isolating, employers must not ask or make them come to work. It’s an offence to do this.

8. Consider the mental health and wellbeing aspects of COVID-19 for yourself and others

See the guidance on the mental health and wellbeing aspects of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Other things to be aware of

Five more things to be aware if you work in or run offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments:

Work from home unless it’s 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. Do this 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.

Introduction

This guide will help you understand how to make your workplace COVID-secure and help stop the spread of COVID-19.

We thank you for playing your part in this national effort.

Who this guide is for

This document is one of a set of documents about how to work safely in different types of workplace.

This one is designed to be relevant for people who work in or run offices, contact centres, or operations rooms.

We expect to update this document over time. You can check for updates at www.gov.uk/workingsafely.

Who contributed to this guide

This document has been prepared by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) with input from firms, unions, industry bodies and the devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. BEIS consulted with Public Health England (PHE) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Public health is devolved in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. This guidance should be considered alongside local public health and safety requirements and legislation in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. For advice to businesses in other parts of the UK please see guidance set by the Northern Ireland Executive, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government.

If you have any feedback on this guidance, please email safer.workplaces@beis.gov.uk.

How to use this guidance

This document gives you guidance on how to open workplaces safely while minimising the risk of spreading COVID-19. It provides practical considerations of how to apply this in the workplace.

You will need to translate this into the specific actions you need to take. These will depend on the nature of your business, including the size and type of business, how it’s organised, operated, managed and regulated. You will also need to monitor these measures to make sure they continue to protect customers and workers.

This guidance does not supersede any legal obligations relating to health and safety, entertainment licensing and regulations, employment or equalities. It’s important that as a business or an employer you continue to comply with your existing obligations. This includes those relating to individuals with protected characteristics. This contains non-statutory guidance to take into account when complying with these existing obligations.

Remember this guidance does not just cover your employees. You must also take into account employees, agency workers, contractors and other people.

To help you decide which actions to take, you must carry out an appropriate COVID-19 risk assessment, just as you would for other health and safety related hazards. This risk assessment must be done in consultation with unions or workers.

1. Thinking about risk

In this section

Objective: To make sure you carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment as the law requires.

As an employer, you must by law protect workers and others from risk to their health and safety. This includes risks from COVID-19.

COVID-19 is a workplace hazard. You must manage it 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
  • 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.

Your risk assessment will help you decide if you have done everything you need to. The Health and Safety Executive has tools to support you 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. Any revisions could present new or altered security risks you may need to mitigate.

You do not have to write anything down as part of your risk assessment if you:

  • have fewer than 5 workers
  • are self-employed

However, you may still find it useful to do so.

Consult your workers

As an employer, you have a legal duty to consult workers 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.

You may do this by consulting with any recognised trade union health and safety representatives.

If you do not have any, you can consult 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 you still cannot do this, see below for other steps you can take.

Enforcement

Enforcing authorities identify employers who do not take action to comply with the relevant public health legislation and guidance to control public health risks. When they do, they can take a range of actions to improve control of workplace risks. The HSE and your local authority are examples of enforcing authorities.

When they identify serious breaches, enforcing authorities can do a number of things. They include:

  • sending you a letter
  • serving you with an improvement or prohibition notice
  • bringing a prosecution against you, in cases where they identify significant breaches

When an enforcing authority issues you with any advice or notices, you should respond rapidly and within their timescales.

The vast majority of employers are responsible. They will work 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.

How to raise a concern:

If you’re an employee, you can contact:

  • your employee representative
  • your trade union if you have one

You can also contact HSE at:

HSE COVID-19 enquiries
Telephone: 0300 790 6787
Online: working safely enquiry form

1.1 Managing risk

Objective: To reduce risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level by taking preventative measures, in order of priority.

As an employer, you have a duty to reduce workplace risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level. You do this by taking preventative measures.

You must work with any other employers or contractors sharing the workplace to protect everybody’s health and safety.

In the context of COVID-19, this means working through these steps in order:

  1. Make sure that workers and customers who feel unwell stay at home and do not attend the venue. By law, businesses may not require a self-isolating worker to come to work.

  2. Increase how often people wash their hands and clean surfaces in the workplace.

  3. Office workers who can work from home should do so. Anyone else who cannot work from home should go to their place of work. The risk of transmission can be substantially reduced if COVID-secure guidelines are followed closely.

  4. Make every reasonable effort to ensure your employees can work safely. Consider reasonable adjustments for employees or customers with disabilities, including disabilities that are not immediately obvious. When in the workplace, everyone should make every reasonable effort to comply with the government’s social distancing guidelines. These are These are 2 metres or 1 metre+ with risk mitigation where 2 metres is not viable.

  5. Fresh air helps to dilute the virus in occupied spaces. Provide adequate ventilation through doors, windows and vents, by mechanical ventilation using fans and ducts, or through a combination of both.

  6. Consider these additional control measures where 2 metre social distancing is not possible:

    – increase the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning even more
    – keep the activity time involved as short as possible
    – use screens or barriers to separate people from each other
    – use back-to-back or side-to-side working whenever possible, instead of face-to-face
    – reduce the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ (so each person works with only a few others)

  7. When you cannot redesign an activity to meet social distance guidelines, ask if your business can continue without that activity. If it cannot, take all mitigation actions possible to reduce transmission risk between staff.

  8. Take steps so people don’t have to raise their voices to each other unless they need to. For example, make sure people don’t play music or broadcasts at level that makes it hard to have normal conversations. This is because there is potentially an increased transmission risk, especially from aerosol transmission.

  9. 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. In your assessment you should have particular regard to whether the people doing the work are especially vulnerable to COVID-19.

  10. If your building has been unoccupied for a period during any lockdowns, consider legionella risk and HSE advice.

Singing, shouting and aerobic activities generate higher levels of aerosol and increase the risk of transmission further. You should consider these factors when ensuring you have adequate ventilation in the workplace. Lowering background noise, including music, reduces the need for people to sit close or shout. This can reduce the risk of airborne virus emissions and transmission.

You must consider the rest of the recommendations below as you go through this process. You could also consider any advice that has been produced specifically for your sector. For example, by trades associations.

If you’re currently operating, you will already have carried out a COVID-19 risk assessment. You should 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 there are changes in the workplace that could lead to new risks.

1.2 Sharing your risk assessment results

You should share your risk assessment results with your workforce.

If possible, consider publishing the results on your website. We expect all employers with over 50 workers to do so.

All businesses should show their workers and clients they have:

  • properly assessed their risk
  • taken appropriate measures to mitigate this

You should do this by displaying a notification:

  • in a prominent place in your business
  • on your website if you have one

To show you have followed this guidance, sign and display the notice below.

2. Who should go to work

In this section

Objective: Office workers should work from home if they can. This guidance will remain in place until at least step 4 of the roadmap. At that stage the work from home guidance will be considered as part of the wider review on social distancing. You should ensure workplaces are safe for anyone who cannot work from home.

Office workers who can work from home should do so. Anyone else who cannot work from home should go to their place of work. However, you should consider whether home working is appropriate for workers facing mental or physical health difficulties, or those with a particularly challenging home working environment.

If COVID-secure guidelines are followed closely, the risk of transmission can be significantly reduced.

Employers should consult with their workers to decide who needs to come into the workplace. You should also consider the impact of workers coming into the workplace on local transport and take appropriate mitigating actions (for example, staggered start and finish times for staff). You should give extra consideration to people at higher risk.

If you consider that workers should come into the workplace, you should reflect this in your risk assessment and take actions to manage transmission risks in line with this guidance. You should encourage a mix of home and office-based working where full home working is not possible.

You will usually need to:

  1. Consider the maximum number of people who can be safely accommodated on site.

  2. Monitor the wellbeing of people who are working from home. Help them stay connected to the rest of the workforce. This is especially important if most of their colleagues are on-site.

  3. Keep in touch with off-site workers on their working arrangements, including their:

    – welfare
    – mental and physical health
    – personal security

  4. Provide equipment for people to work from home safely and effectively. For example, remote access to work systems. Account for different types of needs, including the needs of people with disabilities.

2.1 Protecting people who are at higher risk

Objective: To support those who are at a higher risk of infection and/or an adverse outcome if infected.

There are some groups who are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. They may be advised to take extra precautions to protect themselves. See guidance on who is at higher risk and protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable. 

As an employer, you should make sure suitable arrangements are in place so that they can work safely. Government advice is that clinically extremely vulnerable people no longer need to shield, and should follow the general COVID-19 restrictions which apply to everyone.

We advise clinically extremely vulnerable individuals to work from home where possible. They can still attend work if they cannot work from home. Employers should consider whether clinically extremely vulnerable individuals can take on an alternative role or change their working patterns temporarily to avoid travelling during busy periods. 

You will usually need to:

  1. See current guidance on protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable and protecting vulnerable workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Put measures in place to ensure the workplace is COVID-secure. 

  2. Provide support to staff who are clinically extremely vulnerable, and consider options for altering work arrangements temporarily (if needed) so they can avoid travelling during busy periods. 

  3. Provide support for workers around mental health and wellbeing. This could include advice or telephone support. 

2.2 People who need to self isolate

Objective: To stop people physically coming to work, when government guidance advises them to stay at home.

This includes people who: 

  • have COVID-19 symptoms 
  • live in a household or are in a support bubble with someone who has symptoms 
  • are required to self-isolate as part of NHS Test and Trace

You will usually need to:

  1. Enable workers to work from home while self-isolating if appropriate. It’s illegal to knowingly require or encourage someone who is being required to self-isolate to come to work.

  2. See current guidance related to statutory sick pay due to COVID-19 for:

    –  employees
    –  employers

  3. Ensure any workers who have symptoms of COVID-19 self-isolate immediately and continue for the next 10 full days. This means that if, for example, their symptoms started at any time on the 15th of the month their isolation period ends at 11:59pm on the 25th.These symptoms are:

    – a high temperature
    – a new, continuous cough
    – a loss or change to their sense of smell or taste

    Workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 must self-isolate immediately and continue for the next 10 full days.

    Workers that test positive but have no symptoms must also self-isolate in this way. Sometimes workers develop symptoms during their isolation period. In these cases, they must restart their 10-day self-isolation period from the day after they develop symptoms.  See the guidance for people who live in households with possible or confirmed COVID-19 infections.

  4. Ensure any workers who are contacts of individuals who test positive for COVID-19 self-isolate for a period of 10 days. Contacts must self-isolate immediately and continue for the next 10 full days.

  5. Ensure any workers who have been informed by NHS Test and Trace that they are a close contact of a person who has had a positive test result for COVID-19 follow the requirement to self-isolate. See the guidance for those who have been in contact with, but do not live with, a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.

2.3 Equality in the workplace

Objective: To make sure that nobody is discriminated against.

When applying this guidance, be mindful of the particular needs of different groups of workers or individuals. 

It’s against the law to discriminate against anyone because of their age, sex, disability, race or other ‘protected characteristic’.

Read the government guidance on discrimination.

As an employer, you have particular responsibilities towards:

You will usually need to:

  1. Understand and take into account the particular circumstances of those with different protected characteristics. 

  2. Involve and communicate appropriately with workers whose protected characteristics might either: 

    –  expose them to a different degree of risk 
    – make any steps you’re thinking about inappropriate or challenging for them 

  3. Consider if you need to put in place any particular measures or adjustments to take account of your duties under equalities legislation.

  4. Make reasonable adjustments to avoid disabled workers being put at a disadvantage.

  5. Assess the health and safety risks for new or expectant mothers. 

  6. Make sure any steps you take do not have an unjustifiable negative impact on some groups compared to others. For example, those with caring responsibilities or religious commitments.

2.4 Ventilation

Objective: To use ventilation to mitigate COVID-19’s transmission risk in enclosed spaces. You should use ventilation as a control measure to reduce the risk of transmission of COVD-19 in enclosed spaces.

Ventilation will not reduce the risk of droplet or surface transmission. This means you will also be required to put in place other control measures. These include cleaning and social distancing.

There are different ways of providing ventilation, including:

  • mechanical ventilation using fans and ducts
  • natural ventilation which relies on passive flow through openings, such as doors, windows and vents

You can provide ventilation through a combination of the two.

The risk of transmission is greater in spaces that are poorly ventilated. HSE guidance on ventilation and air conditioning explains how you can identify those spaces. It also explains steps you can take to improve ventilation.

Read the HSE advice on air conditioning and ventilation

3. Social distancing for workers

In this section

Objective: Ensuring workers maintain social distancing guidelines wherever possible. These are 2 metres or 1 metre+ with risk mitigation where 2 metres is not viable. This includes when they arrive at and depart from work, while they are in work, and when they travel between sites.

You should maintain social distancing in the workplace wherever possible. Take account of those with protected characteristics, as social distancing may not be possible or will be more challenging for workers with certain disabilities. For example, individuals in wheelchairs or with visual impairments. You should discuss with disabled workers what reasonable adjustments can be made to the workplace so they can work safely. 

If you can, redesign business activities that cannot currently meet social distance guidelines.

You can mitigate risk by:

  • 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)

If you cannot redesign an activity to meet social distancing guidelines, consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to operate. If it does, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between staff.

Social distancing applies to all parts of your business, not just the place where people spend most of their time. For example, it also covers entrances and exits, break rooms and canteens and similar settings.

These are often the most challenging areas to maintain social distancing and you should remind workers specifically.

3.1 Coming to work and leaving work

Objective: To maintain social distancing on arrival and departure and to make sure people can wash their hands.

You will usually need to:

  1. Stagger arrival and departure times at work. This will cut crowding in and out of the workplace. Take into account the impact on people with protected characteristics.

  2. Provide extra parking or facilities such as bike-racks. This will help people walk, run, or cycle to work.

  3. Limit passengers in corporate vehicles. For example, work minibuses. This could include leaving seats empty.

  4. Reduce congestion. For example, create more entry points to your workplace.

  5. Provide workers with more storage for clothes and bags.

  6. Use markings and bring in one-way flow at entry and exit points.

  7. Provide handwashing facilities at entry and exit points. If this is not possible, provide hand sanitiser. Avoid using touch-based security devices such as keypads where possible. 

  8. Maintain use of security access devices, such as keypads or passes, and adjust processes at entry/exit points to reduce transmission risk. For the same reason, adjust your processes at entry/exit points. For example, clean pass readers regularly and ask staff to hold their passes next to pass readers, rather than touching them.

  9. See guidance on travelling to and from work and getting help with daily activities outside your home during coronavirus.

3.2 Moving around buildings and worksites

Objective: To maintain social-distancing wherever possible, while people travel through the workplace.

You will usually need to:

  1. Reduce movement by discouraging non-essential trips within buildings and sites. For example, restrict access to some areas. Encourage people to use radios or telephones or other electronic devices where permitted. Clean them between uses.

  2. Restrict access between different areas of a building or site.

  3. Reduce job and location rotation.

  4. Introduce more one-way flow through buildings.

  5. Reduce maximum occupancy for lifts, and provide hand sanitiser for lift operation. Encourage people to use stairs wherever they can.

  6. Make sure people with disabilities can access lifts.

  7. Manage how people use high traffic areas to maintain social distancing. This includes corridors, lifts, turnstiles and walkways.

Stickers on lift floor to show where employees should stand and where a wheelchair user should be positioned.

Example lift practices.

3.3 Workplaces and workstations

Objective: To make sure people socially distance when they are at their work stations, wherever possible.

For people who work in one place, workstations should allow them to maintain social distancing wherever possible.

Workstations should be assigned to an individual and not shared. If they need to be shared, they should be shared by the smallest possible number of people.

When working areas cannot be made to comply with social distancing guidelines:

  • ask yourself if the work being done is vital to keep your business going
  • take all mitigating actions you can to cut transmission risk

You will usually need to:

  1. Review layouts and processes to allow people to work further apart from each other.

  2. Use floor tape or paint to mark areas to help people comply with social distancing guidelines. These are 2m, or 1m+ with risk mitigation where 2m is not viable.

  3. Arrange people to work side by side or facing away from each other rather than face-to-face. Only do this where you cannot move workstations further apart.

  4. Use screens to separate people from each other. Only do this where you cannot move workstations further apart.

  5. Manage occupancy levels, to enable social distancing.

  6. Avoid using hot desks and spaces. Where that is not possible, for example, in call centres or training facilities, clean and sanitise workstations between different occupants including shared equipment.

3.4 Meetings

Objective: To reduce transmission due to face-to-face meetings and maintain social-distancing in meetings.

You will usually need to:

  1. Use remote working tools to avoid in-person meetings.

  2. Ensure participants physically attend meetings only where reasonably necessary. They should maintain social distancing guidelines. These are 2m, or 1m+ with risk mitigation where 2m is not viable

  3. Avoid transmission during meetings caused by sharing objects. For example, pens and documents.

  4. Provide hand sanitiser in meeting rooms.

  5. Hold meetings outdoors whenever possible. Otherwise use rooms where there is good ventilation. This could be:

    – fresh air through open doors, windows and vents
    –mechanical ventilation, such as air conditioning

    You can also provide good ventilation through a combination of the two.

  6. Air rooms between meetings. Open all the doors and windows as fully as possible, to maximise the ventilation in the room.

  7. Use floor signage to help people maintain social distancing in areas where you hold regular meetings.

3.5 Common areas

Objective: To maintain social distancing when people use common areas.

You will usually need to:

  1. Work collaboratively with landlords and other tenants in multi-tenant sites/buildings, to ensure consistency across common areas. For example, receptions and staircases.

  2. Stagger break times to reduce pressure on break rooms or places to eat. Ensure social distancing is maintained in staff break rooms.

  3. Use safe outside areas for breaks.

  4. Create extra space by using other parts of the workplace or building that have been freed up by remote working.

  5. Install screens to protect staff in receptions or similar areas.

  6. Provide packaged meals or similar to avoid opening staff canteens.

  7. Encourage workers to bring their own food.

  8. Move round seating and tables to maintain spacing and reduce face-to-face interactions.

  9. Encourage workers to stay on-site during working hours. If they have to go off-site, encourage them to maintain social distancing at all times.

  10. Manage how locker rooms, changing areas and other facility areas are used. This will help reduce how many people use them at once.

  11. Encourage staff to store personal items and clothing in personal storage spaces during working hours. For example in lockers.

3.6 Accidents, security and other incidents

Objective: To prioritise safety during incidents.

In emergencies, you do not have to maintain social distancing if that would be unsafe. Examples include:

  • accidents
  • fires
  • break-ins
  • when you’re giving first-aid

Whenever giving help during emergencies, pay particular attention to sanitation straight afterwards. This includes washing hands.

You will usually need to:

  1. Review your incident and emergency procedures. Ensure they reflect social distancing principles as far as possible.

  2. Consider the possible security implications when you’re thinking of changing how you work in response to COVID-19. Your changes may present new or altered security risks. These risks may need mitigations.

  3. For organisations who conduct physical searches of people, consider how to ensure safety of those conducting searches while maintaining security standards.

  4. See guidance on managing security risks.

4. Managing your customers, visitors and contractors

In this section

4.1 Manage contacts

Objective: To minimise the number of unnecessary visits to offices.

You will usually need to:

  1. Encourage people to visit and work remotely where possible.

  2. Limit the number of visitors at any one time.

  3. Limit visitor times to a specific time window and restrict access to required visitors only.

  4. See if you can reschedule essential services and contractor visits to reduce people overlapping and interacting. For example, carry out services overnight.

  5. Maintain a record of all visitors, if this is practical.

  6. Encourage visitors to use hand sanitiser or handwashing facilities as they enter the premises.

  7. Revise visitor arrangements for better social distancing and hygiene. For example, where someone physically signs in with the same pen in receptions.

4.2 Providing and explaining available guidance

Objective: To make sure people understand what they need to do to maintain safety.

You will usually need to:

  1. Provide clear guidance on social distancing and hygiene to people on or before arrival. For example, by phone, on the website or by email or with on-site signage and visual aids. Consider the particular needs of those with protected characteristics. such as those who are hearing or visually impaired.

  2. Establish host responsibilities related to COVID-19. Provide any necessary training for people who act as hosts for visitors.

  3. Review entry and exit routes for visitors and contractors. Do this to minimise contact with other people.

  4. Coordinate and cooperate with other occupiers, if you share facilities with other businesses. This includes landlords and other tenants.

  5. Tell visitors they should be prepared to remove face coverings if asked to do so by police officers and staff for identification.

  6. Ensure the information you provide to visitors does not compromise their safety. For example, advice on the location or size of queues.

5. Cleaning the workplace

In this section

5.1 Before reopening

Objective: To make sure any site or location that has been closed or partially operated is clean, and ready to restart.

Before you restart work, you should :

  • assess all sites, or parts of sites, that have been closed
  • review cleaning procedures and provide hand sanitiser

You will usually need to:

  1. Check if you need to service or adjust ventilation systems. For example, so that they do not automatically reduce ventilation levels due to lower than normal occupancy levels. 

  2. Most air conditioning systems do not need adjustment if they draw in a supply of fresh air. See the HSE guidance on ventilation and air conditioning for more information. 

5.2 Keeping the workplace clean

Objective: To keep the workplace clean and prevent transmission by touching contaminated surfaces.

You will usually need to:

  1. Clean work areas and equipment between uses. Use your usual cleaning products.

  2. Frequently clean objects and surfaces that people touch regularly. This includes door handles and keyboards. Make sure there are adequate disposal arrangements for cleaning products.

  3. Clear workspaces and remove waste and belongings from the work area at the end of a shift.

  4. Limit or restrict the use of high-touch items and equipment. For example, printers or whiteboards.

  5. If you’re cleaning after a known or suspected case of COVID-19, refer to the guidance on cleaning in non-healthcare settings.

  6. Provide extra non recycling bins for workers and visitors to dispose of single use face coverings and PPE. You should refer to the guidance on how to dispose of personal or business waste, including face coverings and PPE.

5.3 Hygiene: handwashing, sanitation facilities and toilets

Objective: To help everyone keep good hygiene through the working day.

You will usually need to:

  1. Use signs and posters to make people aware:

    – how to wash their hands well
    – that they should wash their hands frequently
    – that they should not touch their faces
    – they should cough or sneeze into a tissue which is binned safely, or into their arms if a tissue is not available

  2. Provide regular reminders and signage to maintain hygiene standards.

  3. Provide hand sanitiser in multiple accessible locations, as well as washrooms. Consider the needs of people with disabilities.

  4. Set clear use and cleaning guidance for toilets. This is to ensure they are kept clean, and people maintain social distancing as much as possible.

  5. Enhance cleaning for busy areas.

  6. Provide more waste facilities, and more frequent rubbish collection.

  7. Provide hand drying facilities. Provide paper towels, continuous roller towels, or electrical dryers.

  8. Keep the facilities well ventilated. For example, by ensuring extractor fans work effectively and opening windows and vents where possible.

5.4 Changing rooms and showers

Objective: To minimise transmission risk in changing rooms and showers.

You will usually need to:

  1. Set clear use and cleaning guidance for showers, lockers and changing rooms where people need to use them. This is to ensure they are kept clean and clear of personal items and that social distancing is achieved as much as possible.

  2. Enhance cleaning of all facilities regularly during the day and at the end of the day.

  3. Keep the facilities well ventilated. For example, ensure extractor fans work effectively and open windows and vents where possible.

5.5 Handling goods, merchandise and other materials, and onsite vehicles

Objective: To reduce transmission through contact with objects coming into the workplace, and vehicles at the worksite.

You will usually need to:

  1. Put in place cleaning procedures for goods and merchandise entering the site.

  2. Put in place cleaning procedures for vehicles.

  1. Encourage people to wash their hands more often. Put in place more handwashing facilities for workers who handle goods and merchandise. Provide hand sanitiser where this is not practical.

  2. Regularly clean vehicles workers may take home.

  3. Restrict non-business deliveries. For example, personal deliveries to workers.

6. Personal protective equipment (PPE) and face coverings

In this section

6.1 Personal protective equipment (PPE)

Where you’re already using PPE in your work activity to protect against non-COVID-19 risks, you should keep doing so.

COVID-19 is a different type of risk to the risks you normally face in a workplace. You do not need to manage this risk by using PPE. You need to manage this risk through social distancing, hygiene and fixed teams or partnering. Do not encourage the precautionary use of extra PPE to protect against COVID-19 unless you’re in a clinical setting or responding to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19.

Unless you’re in a situation where the risk of COVID-19 transmission is very high, your risk assessment should reflect the fact that PPE has an extremely limited role in providing extra protection.

If your risk assessment does show that PPE is required, you must provide this PPE free of charge to workers who need it. Any PPE provided must fit properly.

6.2 Face coverings

A face covering is something which safely covers your mouth and nose. It’s not the same as a face mask, such as the surgical masks or respirators used by health and care workers. Face coverings are not the same as the PPE used to manage risks like dust and spray in an industrial context.

Face coverings are not a replacement for the other ways of managing risk. These include:

  • minimising time spent in contact
  • using fixed teams and partnering for close-up work
  • increasing hand and surface washing

These measures remain the best ways of managing risk in the workplace. We would not expect to see employers relying on face coverings as risk management for the purpose of their health and safety assessments.

People may wear a face visor or shield in addition to a face covering but not instead of one. This is because face visors or shields do not adequately cover the nose and mouth, and do not filter airborne particles.

Face coverings are not mandatory in offices. However, they are required for customers and staff in some businesses that are customer facing. For example:

  • banks
  • building societies
  • post offices
  • premises providing professional, legal or financial services
  • estate agents
  • auction houses

Staff in these settings must wear face coverings in indoor areas that are open to the public, and where they come or are likely to come within close contact of a member of the public, unless they have an exemption.

People are also encouraged to wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces, where there are people they do not normally meet.

It’s important to use face coverings properly. If you choose to wear one, you should wash your hands before putting them on and before and after taking them off.

Find more information on when and where to wear face coverings..

Some people don’t have to wear a face covering including for health, age or equality reasons.

You should support your workers in using face coverings safely if they choose to wear one. You should tell them to:

  • wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before putting a face covering on, and before and after removing it
  • when wearing a face covering, avoid touching your face or face covering, as you could contaminate them with germs from your hands
  • change your face covering if it becomes damp or if you’ve touched it
  • continue to wash your hands regularly
  • change and wash your face covering daily
  • if the material is washable, wash in line with manufacturer’s instructions; if it’s not washable, dispose of it carefully in your usual waste
  • practise social distancing wherever possible

Be aware that face coverings may make it harder to communicate with people who rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound.

7. Workforce management

In this section

7.1 Shift patterns and outbreaks

7.1.1 Shift patterns and working groups

Objective: To change the way work is organised, to create distinct groups and reduce the number of contacts each worker has.

You will usually need to:

  1. Manage unavoidable contact so it happens between the same people, as far as possible. Where people are split into teams or shift groups, fix these teams or shift groups.

  2. Identify areas where people have to directly pass things to each other. For example, office supplies. Find ways to remove direct contact, for example by using drop-off points or transfer zones.

  3. Take into account the particular circumstances of people with different protected characteristics. These include disability, maternity and religion. Consider how they may be impacted by shift patterns and measures to reduce people flow.

7.1.2 Supporting NHS Test and Trace

You should assist NHS Test and Trace. Do this by keeping a temporary record of:

  • all staff working on your premises
  • staff shift times on a given day
  • staff contact details

You should keep this data for 21 days and give this data to NHS Test and Trace if they ask for it. Your efforts could help contain clusters or outbreaks.

Check what data you need to collect and how it should be managed.

7.1.3 Outbreaks in the workplace

Objective: To provide guidance if there is a COVID-19 outbreak in your workplace.

You will usually need to:

  1. Make sure your risk assessment includes an up-to-date plan in case there is a COVID-19 outbreak. This plan should nominate a single point of contact (SPOC) where possible. The SPOC should lead on contacting local Public Health teams. 

  2. Contact your local PHE health protection team if you’ve had an outbreak and need further guidance. Find your local PHE health protection team. 

  3. If your local PHE health protection team declares an outbreak, you will be asked to:

    – record details of symptomatic staff
    –assist with identifying contacts

    You should therefore ensure all employment records are up to date.

    You will be provided with information about the outbreak management process. This will help you to:

    – implement control measures
    – assist with communications to staff
    – reinforce prevention messages

7.2 Work-related travel

7.2.1 Cars, accommodation and visits

Objective: To avoid unnecessary work travel. To keep people safe when they do need to travel between locations.

You will usually need to:

  1. Walk or cycle where possible. When not possible, you can use public transport or drive. You must wear a face covering when using public transport.

  2. Keep to a minimum the number of people outside your household or support bubble travelling together in one vehicle. Wherever possible:

    – use fixed travel partners 
    – do not sit face-to-face 

  3. Provide adequate ventilation by switching on ventilation systems that draw in fresh air or opening windows. You could open windows only partially if it’s cold.  For more information on ventilation in vehicles read HSE guidance on ventilation and air conditioning.

  4. Clean shared vehicles between shifts or on handover. 

  5. When workers have to stay away from their home, centrally log their stay. Make sure any overnight accommodation meets social distancing guidelines.

7.2.2 Deliveries to other sites

Objective: To help workers delivering to other sites to maintain social distancing and hygiene practices. Examples of other sites include branches, or suppliers’ or customers’ premises.

You will usually need to:

  1. Put in place procedures to keep person-to-person contact to a minimum during deliveries to other sites.

  2. Maintain consistent pairing where 2-person deliveries are required.

  3. Keep contact to a minimum during payments and when documents are exchanged. For example:

    – use electronic payment methods
    – sign and exchange documents electronically

7.3 Communications and training

7.3.1 Returning to Work

Objective: To make sure all workers understand COVID-19 related safety procedures.

You will usually need to:

  1. Communicate clearly, consistently and regularly. This will improve understanding and consistency of ways of working.

  2. Engage with workers through existing communication routes and worker representatives. Do this to explain and agree any changes in working arrangements.

  3. Develop communication and training materials for workers prior to returning to site. This is especially important for new procedures for arrival at work.

7.3.2 Ongoing communications and signage

Objective: To make sure all workers are updated on how you’re implementing or updating safety measures.

You will usually need to:

  1. Engage with workers on an ongoing basis. This includes dealing with trade unions, or employee representative groups. Do this to monitor and understand any unforeseen impacts of changes to working environments.

  2. Be aware of and focus on mental health. Mental health is important, especially during times of uncertainty like today. The government has published guidance on the mental health and wellbeing aspects of coronavirus (COVID-19).

  3. Use simple, clear messaging to explain guidelines using images and clear language. You should consider people:

    – who do not have English as their first language 
    – who have protected characteristics, such as visual impairments  

  4. Use visual communications to explain changes to schedules or breakdowns. For example, whiteboards or signage. Do this to reduce the need for face-to-face communications.

  5. Communicate approaches and operational procedures with suppliers, customers or trade bodies to help their adoption and to share experience. 

7.4 Staff canteens and restaurants

Objective: To keep the workplace clean and prevent transmission.

Staff canteens and restaurants that are open to the public should follow the guidance for restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services. They must maintain records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace.

Staff canteens and restaurants that are open to staff only will usually need to take the steps below.

If your business has staff canteens or restaurants that open to only staff, you will usually need to:

  1. Make sure hand washing facilities or hand sanitiser are available at canteen entrances. Make sure their use is supervised. 

  2. Stagger break times to prevent overcrowding, so that staff can follow social distancing rules. 

  3. Make queue points clearly on the floor, to ensure social distancing is possible. 

  4. Make sure that staff who do not share a household never share food or drink. 

  5. Minimise self-serving options for food and drink. As far as possible, food served and/or displayed should be individually wrapped. This will help minimise contact and avoid spread of infection. 

  6. Increase how often everything is cleaned. Pay special attention to surfaces that people touch with their hands. For example table tops, drinks levers, keypads, grab-rails, elevator buttons, light switches, and door handles.

  7. Wash plates, cutlery and glasses by hand in hot soapy water. Or wash them with detergent in a dishwasher rated for disinfection. 

  8. Thoroughly clean canteens and restaurants after each staff group uses them. 

  9. Provide adequate ventilation by opening doors, windows and vents or by mechanical ventilation through fans and ducts, or a combination of both. HSE guidance on ventilation and air conditioning provides further information.

  10. Consider ways to reduce how staff use cash to buy food or drink. For example, a system that only uses debit cards and contactless payment. 

  11. Where you can, match cohorts of workers to zoned canteen areas.  

8. Inbound and outbound goods

Objective: To maintain social-distancing and avoid surface transmission when goods enter and leave the site.

You will usually need to:

  1. Revise pick-up and drop-off collection points, procedures, signage and markings.

  2. Minimise unnecessary contact at gatehouse security, yard and warehouse. For example, non-contact deliveries where the nature of the product allows for use of electronic pre-booking.

  3. Consider methods to reduce frequency of deliveries, for example by ordering larger quantities less often.

  4. Where possible and safe, have single workers load or unload vehicles.

  5. Where possible, using the same pairs of people for loads where more than 1 is needed.

  6. Enable drivers to access welfare facilities when required, consistent with other guidance.

  7. Encourage drivers to stay in their vehicles where this does not compromise their safety and existing safe working practice, such as preventing drive-aways.

9. Tests and vaccinations

In this section

It’s important that you continue to put measures in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. These include:  

  • maintaining social distancing 
  • frequent cleaning 
  • good hygiene 
  • adequate ventilation  This is important even if your workers have:
  • received a recent negative test result
  • had the vaccine (either 1 or 2 doses)

Where you’re providing testing on-site, you should ensure that workplace testing is carried out in a safe manner and in an appropriate setting where control measures are in place to manage the risk of COVID-19 transmission during the testing process. These include:

  • maintaining social distancing 
  • frequent cleaning 
  • good hygiene 
  • adequate ventilation

You should also ensure that an appropriate setting is available for individuals to wait in while their test is processed. 

9.1 Accessing testing

Anyone with coronavirus symptoms can get a free NHS test.

If you registered your business for free test kits before 12 April 2021, you can order free rapid lateral flow tests to test employees with no COVID-19 symptoms until 30 June 2021.

If you did not register, you can pay an approved provider to provide tests or run a test site. Read guidance on getting COVID-19 tests for your employees.

Employees who do not have symptoms of COVID-19 can access testing free of charge at home or at a test site. Read guidance on accessing tests if you do not have symptoms of COVID-19.

Regular testing, alongside control measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, will have a key role to play in the future. Regular testing could help identify more positive cases of COVID-19 in the workplace. Read further guidance on your options for workplace testing, or call 119 for more information. 

Where to find more information