Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)

Shops and branches

Guidance for people who work in or run shops, branches, stores or similar 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.

At Step 3, gatherings of up to 30 are permitted outdoors and gatherings of up to 6 or 2 households are permitted indoors.

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 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.

Step 3 – from 17 May

At Step 3, gatherings of up to 30 people are permitted outdoors; gatherings of up to 6 people or 2 households of any size are permitted indoors.

This guidance will be kept up to date as we move through the steps of the roadmap.

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.

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

Increase how often you clean surfaces, especially those that are being touched a lot. Ask your staff, visitors or contractors to use hand sanitiser and wash their hands frequently.

3. Remind your customers and staff to wear face coverings in any indoor space or where the law says they must

You could do this using signs. However, you are not responsible for enforcing customer face covering law. This is an important reminder to help mitigate transmission. 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 that your customers can follow.

5. Provide adequate ventilation

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

6. Take part in NHS Test and Trace

Betting shops are legally required to keep a record of all customers, visitors and staff for 21 days. Other retail businesses should keep a record of all staff and contractors (not customers) for 21 days.

Check ‘Maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace’ for details.

7. Turn people with coronavirus 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, they should be isolating. If someone is self-isolating, employers must not ask or make them come to work.  It is 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 (COVID-19).

Other things to be aware of

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.


This guide will help you understand how to make your workplace COVID-secure and help tackle 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 shops, branches, stores or similar environments.

Shops and branches include all retail stores. This includes:

  • food retailers
  • chemists
  • hardware/homeware stores
  • fashion shops
  • charity shops
  • betting shops and high street gambling arcades
  • car dealerships
  • auction houses
  • antique stores
  • retail art galleries
  • photography studios
  • gift shops and retail spaces in theatres, museums, libraries, heritage sites and tourism sites
  • mobile phone stores
  • indoor and outdoor markets
  • craft fairs
  • similar types of retail

Branches include:

  • bank branches
  • post offices
  • other open money businesses

People delivering close contact services in retail environments should also refer to guidance on keeping workers and clients safe during COVID-19 in close contact services.

We expect that this document will be updated over time. You can check for updates at

Who has 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, and in consultation 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

How to use this guidance

This document sets out guidance on how to open workplaces safely while minimising the risk of spreading COVID-19. It gives practical considerations of how this can be applied in the workplace.

Each business will need to translate this into the specific actions it needs to take, depending on the nature of their business, including the size and type of business, how it is organised, operated, managed and regulated. They will also need to monitor these measures to make sure they continue to protect visitors and workers.

This guidance does not supersede any legal obligations relating to health and safety, employment or equalities and it is important that as a business or an employer you continue to comply with your existing obligations, including those relating to individuals with protected characteristics. It contains non-statutory guidance to take into account when complying with these existing obligations. When considering how to apply this guidance, take into account agency workers, contractors and other people, as well as your employees.

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: That all employers carry out a COVID-19 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 workplace hazard. You should 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 whether you have done everything you need to. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has interactive tools to support you.

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.  


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 are 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 (Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5pm)
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. Make every reasonable effort to ensure your workers can work safely. Consider reasonable adjustments for workers or customers with disabilities, including hidden disabilities that are not immediately obvious. Anyone who can work from home should do so. Anyone who cannot work from home should go to their place of work, if COVID-secure guidelines are followed closely. When in the workplace, everyone should make every reasonable effort to comply with the government’s social distancing guidelines. These are 2 metres or 1 metre+ with risk mitigation where 2 metres is not viable. 

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

  5. Consider these additional control measures where 2 m social distancing is not possible:

    – increase the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning even more
    – keep 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)

  6. 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.

  7. Remind customers and staff to wear face coverings where they are required, for example, through signage or verbal reminders.

  8. 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.

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

Find information on social contact rules, social distancing and the exemptions that exist. These rules will not apply to workplaces or education settings, alongside other exemptions.

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. 

Those running events following COVID-secure guidelines should take additional steps to ensure the safety of the public. Read the organised events guidance for more information.

Individual businesses should consider the cumulative impact of many businesses reopening in a small area. This means working with local authorities, neighbouring businesses and travel operators to assess this risk and applying extra mitigations. These could include:

  • lowering capacity further. Even if it is possible to safely seat a number of people inside a venue, it may not be safe for them all to travel or enter that venue
  • staggering entry times with other venues and taking steps to avoid queues building up in surrounding areas
  • arranging one way travel routes between transport hubs and venues
  • advising patrons to avoid particular forms of transport or routes and to avoid crowded areas when in transit to the venue

Local authorities should avoid issuing licenses for events that could lead to larger gatherings forming and provide advice to businesses on how to manage events of this type. If appropriate, the government has powers to close venues hosting large gatherings or prohibit certain events (or types of event) from taking place.

You should consider the recommendations in the rest of this document 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 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 if there are changes in the workplace that could lead to new risks.

1.2 Sharing the results of your risk assessment

You should share the results of your risk assessment with your workforce.

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

All businesses should show their workers and customers that 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. Keeping your customers and visitors safe

In this section

2.1 Supporting NHS Test and Trace (betting shops only)

Objective: to support NHS Test and Trace in betting shops.

This guidance is for betting shops only. Other shops and branches do not need to maintain records of customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace.

In order to ensure that betting shops are able to remain open, you must:

  1. Display the official NHS QR code poster. The posters can be generated online.

  2. Ask every customer or visitor aged 16 and over to check in to your venue or provide their contact details. This can be done quickly and easily using the NHS COVID-19 app to scan in the NHS QR code poster.

  3. Have a system in place to ensure that you can collect that information from your customers and visitors who do not have a smartphone or do not want to use the NHS COVID-19 app. You must keep this data for 21 days and provide it to NHS Test and Trace, if it is requested. Check what data you need to collect and how it should be managed.

Any business that is found not to be compliant with these requirements will be subject to financial penalties.

It is vital that you comply with these requirements to help keep people safe, and to keep businesses open. Find out more about the NHS Test and Trace requirements.​

There is separate guidance on keeping a record of staff shift patterns. See section 7.1.

2.2 Managing contacts

Objective: To minimise the contact resulting from visits to stores or outlets

You will usually need to:

  1. Calculate the maximum number of customers that can reasonably follow social distancing guidelines (2m, or 1m+ with risk mitigation where 2m is not viable) within the store and any outdoor selling areas. Take into account total floorspace as well as likely pinch points and busy areas.

  2. Limit the number of customers in the store, overall and in any particular congestion areas. For example doorways between outside and inside spaces.

  3. Encourage customers to use hand sanitiser or handwashing facilities as they enter the premises. Do this to reduce the risk of transmission by touching products while browsing.

  4. Encourage customers to avoid handling products whilst browsing, if at all possible.

  5. Suspend or reduce customer services that cannot be undertaken without contravening social distancing guidelines. This may include re-thinking how assistance is provided. For example, using fixed pairs of colleagues to lift heavy objects rather than a single colleague lifting with a customer.

  6. Encourage customers to shop in line with rules on social contact.Customers may attend in groups of up to 6 people or 2 households of any size indoors; or in groups of no more than 30 people outdoors.

  7. Remind customers who are accompanied by children that they are responsible for supervising them at all times and should follow social distancing guidelines.

  8. Look at how people move through the shop. See how you could adjust this to reduce congestion and contact between customers. For example, queue management or one-way flow, where possible.

  9. Ensure any changes to entrances, exits and queue management take into account reasonable adjustments for those who need them, including disabled shoppers. For example, maintaining pedestrian and parking access for disabled customers.

  10. Work with neighbouring businesses and local authorities to provide additional parking or facilities such as bike racks. Do this wherever possible. It will help customers avoid using public transport.

  11. Use outside premises for queuing where available and safe. For example, with some car parks.

  12. Manage outside queues to ensure they do not cause a risk to individuals, other businesses or additional security risks. For example introduce queuing systems. Have staff direct customers and protect queues from traffic. Do this by routing them behind permanent physical structures. You could use street furniture, bike racks, bollards or put up barriers.

  13. Work with your local authority or landlord to take into account the impact of your processes, including queues, on public spaces. For example, high streets and public car parks.

  14. If you are a shopping centre, take responsibility for managing the number of customers in your centre. Do the same for the queuing process in communal areas, on behalf of your retail.

  15. Have clearly designated positions from which colleagues can provide advice or assistance to customers, whilst maintaining social distancing.

  16. Work with neighbouring businesses and local authorities to consider how to spread the number of people arriving throughout the day. For example, by staggering opening hours. This will help reduce demand on public transport at key times, and avoid overcrowding.

  17. Avoid sharing vehicles except within a family. For example, on test drives. If it is not possible, keep the number of people in vehicles to a minimum and as distanced within them as possible.

  18. Switch on ventilation systems that draw in fresh air or opening windows (partially if it’s cold). For more information on ventilation in vehicles read HSE guidance on ventilation and air conditioning.

  19. For customer restaurants and cafes, you should refer to guidance on keeping workers and customers safe during COVID-19 in restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services.

2.3 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. Give people clear guidance on social distancing and hygiene when they arrive. For example, with signage and visual aids. Consider the particular needs of those with protected characteristics. such as those who are hearing or visually impaired.

  2. Tell visitors they should be prepared to remove face coverings if asked to do so by police officers and staff. This will be identification purposes.

  3. Provide written or spoken communication of the latest guidelines to both workers and customers, inside and outside the store. You should display posters or information setting out how clients should behave on your premises to keep everyone safe. Consider the particular needs of those with protected characteristics. For example, those who are hearing or visually impaired.

  4. Ensure your latest guidelines are visible in selling and non-selling areas.

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

2.4 Ventilation

Objective: To use ventilation to mitigate the transmission risk of COVID-19. Ventilation can be used as a control measure to reduce the risk of transmission of COVD-19 in enclosed spaces.

Ventilation should be used as a control measure to reduce the risk of aerosol transmission of COVID-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 advice on air conditioning and ventilation from HSE.

2.5 Customer toilets

Objective: To ensure that toilets are kept open and to ensure/promote good hygiene, social distancing, and cleanliness in toilet facilities.

Public toilets, portable toilets and toilets inside premises should be kept open and carefully managed to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.

You will usually need to:

  1. Use signs and posters to make people aware: 

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

  2. Consider using social distancing marking in areas where queues normally form. Also consider adopting a limited entry approach, with 1 in, 1 out. If you do this, make sure you avoid creating additional bottlenecks. 

  3. Consider making hand sanitiser available on entry to toilets where safe, practical and accessible. Ensure suitable handwashing facilities are available. This includes running water and liquid soap and suitable options for drying. Namely paper towels, continuous roller towels or hand dryers. Consider the needs of people with disabilities. 

  4. Set clear use and cleaning guidance for toilets, with increased frequency of cleaning in line with usage. You should use normal cleaning products and pay attention to frequently hand touched surfaces. Consider using disposable cloths or paper roll to clean all hard surfaces. 

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

  6. Take special care when cleaning portable toilets and larger toilet blocks. 

  7. Put up a visible cleaning schedule. Keep it up to date and visible. 

  8. Provide more waste facilities and more frequent rubbish collection. 

3. Who should go to work

In this section

Objective: Employers should ensure workplaces are safe for anyone who cannot work from home. It is recognised that for people who work in these types of workplace, it is often not possible to work from home.

Anyone who can work from home should do so. However, employers 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.

When employers consider that workers should come into their place of work, they must:

  • reflect this in the COVID-19 workplace risk assessment
  • take actions to manage transmission risk in line with this guidance

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 the majority 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. 

3.1 Protecting people who are at higher risk

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

There are some groups who are at higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus. They may be advised to take extra precautions to protect themselves. See guidance on who is at higher risk from coronavirus 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. 

3.2 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 is 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: 


  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.

3.3 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 for further information.

As an employer, you have particular responsibilities towards disabled customers.

You also have particular responsibilities towards disabled workers and those who are new mothers or pregnant women. 

Read COVID-19 advice for pregnant employees.

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 are 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. 

4. 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. You should take account of those with protected characteristics because social distancing may not be possible or will be more challenging for workers with certain disabilities. For example, workers 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 distancing 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 whenever possible, instead of face-to-face
  • 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 a business, not just the place where people spend most of their time. For example, it also covers entrances and exits, break rooms, canteens and similar settings.

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

4.1 Coming to work and leaving work

Objective: To maintain social distancing wherever possible, on arrival and departure and to enable handwashing upon arrival.

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. This may not be possible in smaller workplaces.

  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 in larger stores.

  5. Use markings and introduce one-way flow at entry and exit points, where possible.

  6. Provide handwashing facilities at entry and exit points. If this is not possible, provide hand sanitiser. Do not use touch-based security devices. For example, keypads.

  7. Maintain the use of security access devices to reduce transmission risk. For the same reason, adjust your processes at entry/exit points. For example, make sure you clean pass readers regularly. Also ask staff to hold their passes next to pass readers, rather than touching them.

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

4.2 Moving around buildings and stores

Objective: To maintain social distancing as far as 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. Introduce more one-way flow through buildings. Your floor markings and signage should remind both workers and customers to follow social distancing, wherever possible.

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

  4. Make sure that people with disabilities can access lifts.

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

4.3 Workplaces and workstations

Objective: To maintain social distancing between individuals when they are at their workstations.

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

Workstations should be assigned to an individual as much as possible. 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 workers to work further apart from each other.

  2. Use floor tape or paint to mark areas to help people keep to a 2m distance.

  3. Avoid people working face-to-face. For example, by working side-by-side or facing away from each other.

  4. Use screens to create a physical barrier between people.

  5. Use a consistent pairing system if workers have to be in close proximity. For example, maintenance activities that cannot be redesigned.

  6. Minimising contacts around transactions. For example, considering using contactless payments.

  7. Rethink demonstrations and promotions. Do this to minimise direct contact and to maintain social distancing.

4.4 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 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 wherever 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 both.

  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. 

4.5 Common areas

Objective: To maintain social distancing while using common areas.

You will usually need to:

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

  2. Use safe outside areas for breaks.

  3. Create additional space by using other parts of the working area or building that have been freed up by remote working.

  4. Install screens to protect workers serving customers at till points.

  5. Provide packaged meals or similar to avoid fully opening staff canteens.

  6. Move round seating and tables to make the best use of space and reduce face-to-face interactions.

  7. Encourage workers to stay on-site during working hours. If they have to go off-site, encourage them to keep socially distancing at all times.

  8. Use social distance marking for other common areas or other areas where queues typically form. For example, toilets, showers, lockers and changing rooms.

4.6 Accidents, security and other incidents

Objective: To prioritise safety during incidents.

In emergencies, you do not have to socially distance if that would be unsafe. Examples include:

  • accidents
  • fires
  • break-ins
  • when you are 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 whether you have enough appropriately trained staff to keep people safe. For example, have dedicated staff to encourage social distancing or to manage security.

  3. Consider the possible security implications when you are thinking of changing how you work. Your changes may present new or altered security risks. These risks may need mitigations.

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

  5. See government guidance on managing security risks.

5. Cleaning the workplace

In this section

5.1 Before reopening

Objective: To make sure that 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 whether you need to service or adjust mechanical 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. HSE guidance on ventilation and air conditioning provides further 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. Frequent cleaning of work areas and equipment between uses, using your usual cleaning products.

  2. Frequently clean objects and surfaces that people touch regularly. This includes self-checkouts, trolleys, coffee machines, betting machines or staff handheld devices. 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. If you are cleaning after a known or suspected case of COVID-19, refer to the guidance on cleaning in non-healthcare settings.

  5. Provide extra non recycling bins for workers and customers to dispose of single use face coverings and PPE. You should refer to 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 in addition to 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 socially distance 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 - paper towels, continuous roller towels or electrical driers.

5.4 Customer fitting rooms

Objective: To minimise the risk of transmission through customer fitting rooms.

The enclosed nature of fitting rooms may result in increased risk of transmission of COVID-19. They should therefore be carefully managed to reduce that risk. Retail businesses should update their risk assessments for each premises where fitting rooms are being used.

You will usually need to:

  1. Adopt a limited entry approach, where entry is managed by a member of staff. Avoid the creation of bottlenecks. Consider using 1 in, 1 out, except where customers require specific assistance. For example, customers with children or those with disabilities.

  2. Limit use to individual cubicles within fitting room areas and opening only alternate cubicles. Multi-occupancy fitting rooms should remain closed.

  3. Leave a gap of several minutes between one customer leaving a cubicle and the next customer entering. For stores with 2 or more cubicles, you could do this by alternating cubicle usage.

  4. Where possible, leave doors or curtains open in vacant fitting rooms. This will increase fresh air flow into cubicles that have recently been occupied, before the next customer enters.

  5. Make hand sanitiser available on entry and exit.

  6. Use social distancing marking in areas where queues normally form.

  7. Set clear use and cleaning guidance, where fitting rooms are cleaned frequently or between every use. Use normal cleaning products. Pay attention to frequently hand touched surfaces, and consider using disposable cloths or paper roll to clean all hard surfaces.

  8. Create procedures to manage clothes that have been tried on, to minimise contact between customers and staff.

  9. Ensure any activity which involves close contact between customers and colleagues is carried out in line with the guidance on keeping workers and clients safe during COVID-19 in close contact services. For example, fitting assistance.

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

5.5 Handling goods, merchandise and other materials

Objective: To reduce transmission through contact with objects that come in the store.

You will usually need to:

  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. Limit customer handling of merchandise. For example, through different display methods, new signage or rotation, or cleaning of high touch stock with your usual cleaning products.

  3. Put in place a process to manage customer use of testers. For example, have staff monitor the use of testers, limit customer handling, and clean them between uses. For cosmetic and make-up testing, you could also use disposable applicators and place them into disposable pots, use sanitised tiles, and decant products. Any activity which involves close contact between customers and workers should be carried out in line with the guidance on keeping workers and clients safe during COVID-19 in close contact services.

  4. Put in place pick-up and drop-off collection points where possible. Do this instead of passing goods hand-to-hand.

  5. Stagger collection times for customers collecting items. Put a queuing system in place to ensure compliance with social distancing guidelines (2m, or 1m+ with risk mitigation where 2m is not viable).

  6. Set up ‘no contact’ return procedures, where customers take return goods to a designated area.

  7. Encourage contactless refunds, where possible.

  8. Provide guidance to how workers can safely assist customers with handling large item purchases.

  9. Consider placing protective coverings on large items that may require customer testing or use. For example, furniture, beds or seats. Ensure frequent cleaning of these coverings between uses, using usual cleaning products.

  10. Clean touch points after each customer’s use or handover.  Consider interior and exterior touch points in certain cases. For example, rental equipment and test drive and rental vehicles.

6. Personal protective equipment (PPE) and face coverings

In this section

Where you are 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 manage it by using PPE. You manage it through:

  • social distancing
  • hygiene
  • fixed teams or partnering

Do not encourage the precautionary use of extra PPE to protect against COVID-19:

  • outside clinical settings
  • when responding to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19

In most cases, your risk assessment should reflect that PPE has an extremely limited role in providing extra protection. The exception is when you are in a situation with a very high risk of COVID-19 transmission.

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 is 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 setting.

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. 

Find further detail on when and where to wear face coverings. 

6.2.1 Face coverings for staff and customers

By law, staff and customers in retail settings are required to wear a face covering, unless they have an exemption. This includes for health, age or equality reasons. No one who is exempt from wearing a face covering should be denied entry if they are not wearing one.

By law businesses must remind people to wear face coverings where they are required, for instance using signage or providing verbal reminders. If necessary, police can issue fines to members of the public for non-compliance. Businesses will not be required to provide face coverings for their customers.

Retail settings where face coverings are mandatory include:

  • shops and supermarkets
  • indoor shopping centres
  • banks
  • building societies
  • post offices
  • premises providing professional, legal or financial services
  • auction houses
  • premises where food or drink is purchased

Some shops, outlets and supermarkets have a café or seating area for customers to eat and drink in. In these cases, customers can only remove their face coverings when seated to eat or drink.

Customers must wear a face covering before entering any of these settings. They must also keep it on until they leave, unless they have an exemption. People are also encouraged to wear a face covering in other enclosed public spaces where:

  • social distancing may be difficult
  • there are people you do not normally meet

Customers are permitted to remove face coverings:

  • for identification purposes
  • when speaking with people who rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound for communication

Unless they have an exemption, you must ensure that all your staff in retail settings wear face coverings:

  • when they are in areas that are open to the public
  • where they are likely to come within close contact of a member of the public

Employers should continue to follow COVID-secure guidelines to reduce the proximity and duration of contact between workers.

You must not, by law, prevent your staff from wearing a face covering where they are required to do so.

Where face coverings are required for staff, you must provide these as part of their health and safety obligations. However, staff are welcome to use their own face coverings if they choose and we expect most people to have their own.

If you have taken steps to create a physical barrier or screen between workers and members of the public, then staff behind the barrier or screen will not be required to wear a face covering. Enforcement action can be taken if barriers and screens are in place which do not adequately mitigate risks.

You already have legal obligations to protect your staff under existing employment law. This means taking appropriate steps to provide a safe working environment, which may include providing face coverings where appropriate, alongside other mitigations such as screens and social distancing.

You should advise workers how to use face coverings safely. This means telling workers:

  • 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, 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. 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

Betting shops are required by law to maintain records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace.

All other retail businesses should assist NHS Test and Trace by keeping a temporary record of:

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

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

7.1.2 Outbreaks in the workplace

Objective: To provide guidance in an event of a COVID-19 outbreak in the 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 the local PHE health protection team declares an outbreak, you will be asked to:

    – record details of staff with symptoms of COVID-19
    – 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 and keep people safe when they do need to travel between locations.

You will usually need to:

  1. Walk or cycle where possible. If that is 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 any 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 your workers have to stay away from their homes, 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 factories, logistic sites, or customers’ premises.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Put in place procedures to minimise person-to-person contact during deliveries to other sites.

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

  3. Minimise contact during payments and exchange of documentation. 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 kept up to date with how safety measures are being implemented or updated.

You will usually need to:

  1. Engage with workers on an ongoing basis. This includes through 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 the importance of mental health at times of uncertainty. See the guidance on the mental health and wellbeing aspects of 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 appointment schedules or stock shortages. 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 zoned canteen areas. 

8. Inbound and outbound goods

Objective: To maintain social distancing and avoid surface transmission when goods enter and leave the site, especially in high volume situations, for example, distribution centres or despatch areas.

You will usually need to:

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

  2. Minimise unnecessary contact at your gatehouse security, yards, and warehouse. For example, non-contact deliveries where the product can be pre-booked electronically.

  3. Consider ways to make less frequent deliveries. For example, order larger quantities less often.

  4. Have single workers load or unload vehicles. Do this whenever it’s possible and safe. 

  5. Where possible, use the same pairs of people for loads that need more than one person.

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

  7. Encourage drivers to stay in their vehicles, for example to prevent drive-aways. Do this where it does not compromise their safety and existing safe working practice

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 where possible, frequent cleaning, good hygiene and 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 guidance on your options for workplace testing, or call 119 for more information.

Where to find more information