COVID-19: guidance for businesses

COVID-19: guidance for businesses

Latest advice and guidance

On 21 February, the Prime Minister announced the end of all remaining legal restrictions as part of the government’s ‘Living with COVID’ strategy. 

Changes being introduced before 1 April include:

  • there is no legal requirement to self-isolate following a positive COVID-19 test result
  • an end to routine contact tracing, including venue check-ins on the NHS COVID-19 app 
  • free lateral flow (rapid) tests and PCR tests will end for the general public
  • larger venues will no longer need to use the NHS COVID Pass as a means of entry

A full list of the changes can be found on page 22 of the national Living with COVID Plan.

While the government is confident it is appropriate to remove legal restrictions, the future remains uncertain. The pandemic is not yet over and rates in Bristol remain high. It is possible that we will see further spikes and waves of infection both locally and globally. 

As we learn how to live with COVID-19 in the long term it is more important than ever to look at your organisations business continuity plans and consider the measures we outline here.

Businesses in higher risk settings, such as care homes or cold stores, should consider stricter levels of control to prevent further COVID-19 outbreaks.

Living with COVID-19: preventative measures to protect your business or event (pdf, 220KB) (opens new window)

Face masks and space

There's no longer a legal requirement to wear a face covering in any setting.

Public health advice will remain in place, recommending that you continue to wear a face covering:

  • in crowded, enclosed spaces
  • when you are mixing with people you don’t usually meet with

This will help reduce the chance of catching or spreading COVID-19 on to others.

We recommend you to encourage customers to wear a face mask and to keep social distances where possible. 

Staff are recommended to wear appropriate protection, especially when dealing with customers.

We recommend that you:

  • place posters in the window so they are clearly visible on entry and use signage to encourage customers to wear face masks and make space
  • clearly indicate the measures you have put in place

Download posters for your business including face masks must be worn and social distancing messaging.

Ventilation of indoor workplaces

Ventilation is important to remove harmful virus particles from the air. 

Business owners must identify areas of the workplace that are not well ventilated and:

  • include them as a priority in your risk assessment
  • introduce control measures to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 as far as is reasonably practicable

Ways to ventilate

Natural ventilation: it is best not to recirculate air from one place to another. Opening windows and doors allows fresh air in and for air to circulate.

Mechanical ventilation: uses fans and ducts to bring in fresh air from outside. It can be used where natural ventilation is not practical, for example in a nightclub.

With COVID likely to be with us for many years, you should prefer long term solutions to short term fixes. Where applicable, you should also make sure you keep volume down in line with your licence conditions, to prevent undue noise and disturbance to your neighbours.

It is just one safety measure and must be used in combination with other COVID-secure measures to mitigate against the risk.

Visit the Health and Safety Executive website for the latest advice on keeping workplaces safe to reduce COVID-19 transmission.

Read our COVID guidance on the ventilation of indoor workplaces (pdf, 92KB) (opens new window)

Hospitality businesses

To help keep your business open, and to keep you, your staff and your customers safe, we recommend you continue to use COVID-safe measures, such as: 

  • ask customers to remain seated to prevent a build-up of people at the bar or till area 
  • continue using app-based ordering and payment systems 
  • use outdoor space to allow for additional tables and chairs

You should also make sure that:

  • staff and customers clean their hands regularly by providing soap or alcohol gels 
  • you clean surfaces that people frequently touch
  • staff and customers do not come onto the premises if unwell

Outdoor structures or shelters

You must apply for an outdoor hospitality licence to have tables, chairs and other temporary furniture or structures on the pavement or road outside your premises. This will make sure your insurance policy is valid while you are trading on the highway.

You should talk to us before you start work on any outdoor structure or shelter, to make sure it:

  • fits with the licence conditions 
  • is suitable and safe for use on the highway

Email business@bristol.gov.uk

Shelters and structures

Any shelters or structures with a roof must be at least 50 per cent open sided to be classed as outdoor space. For example, a completely enclosed gazebo is not classed as outdoors, it must be half open to comply. 

If a structure is more than 50% enclosed you must treat it as an indoor space and you must not allow smoking in this area.

Marquee with closed sides

This structure is more than 50% enclosed so it is classed as indoors. If you opened half of the side areas, it would be classed as outdoors.

Shed with three enclosed sides and an open front

This structure is classed as indoors because more than 50% of it is enclosed.

Large umbrella

This structure is classed as a outdoors, because it has open sides. Other structures that provide a canopy with open sides would also be classed as outdoors.

NHS COVID Pass

From Thursday 27 January, venues and events will no longer be legally required to check NHS COVID passes as a means of entry.

However, organisations can still use the NHS COVID Pass on a voluntary basis to help control higher risk settings.

From 1 April, guidance will be removed for larger venues to use the NHS COVID Pass as a means of entry.

NHS pass for customers

In England, anyone aged 18 or over can get an NHS COVID Pass.

The pass allows individuals to show their COVID status, in a secure way, at the point of entry.

The pass will show:

  • proof of full vaccination (2 doses of an approved vaccine or one of the single-dose Janssen vaccine)
  • negative PCR test or lateral flow test within the past 48 hours
  • proof of exemption

If you cannot get vaccinated or tested for medical reasons, you can apply for a medical exemption. Once your exception has been confirmed, you will be able to get an NHS COVID Pass for domestic events and venues.

The NHS COVID Pass can be checked visually or scanned using the NHS Verifier app.

If you're using the NHS COVID Pass as a means of entry, you should think about how this may affect entry to your premises and:

  • have clear signage to make sure customers know entry requirements
  • have measures in place to avoid queue forming, especially where the entrance is on a pavement or road

Customers can get a COVID pass by:

  • downloading the NHS App, they must be registered with a GP surgery in England to use the app
  • using the online NHS COVID Pass service
  • asking for a paper version online, which shows you've been vaccinated against COVID-19 but does not show COVID-19 test results
  • asking for a letter 2 weeks after having your second dose of the vaccine or 2 weeks after a single-dose Janssen vaccine, it should take 5 working days to get it

Visit the government website for further details on the NHS COVID Pass.

Vaccinations

Vaccinations will help protect your workforce and you should encourage all your staff to get their vaccinations.

People in England can book their COVID-19 vaccination on the NHS website or by calling 119.

The protection from vaccines reduces over time, so it is important to top up your immunity by getting a COVID-19 booster jab and flu jab if you’re eligible. 

To visit a local walk-in clinic, visit www.grabajab.net for an up-to-date list and to see who can attend.

Regular rapid testing

Lateral flow device (rapid) tests (LFD) are for people with no symptoms, to help identify cases and prevent the spread of the virus.

Anyone who receives a positive lateral flow test result is advised to:

Changes from 1 April:

  • Free lateral flow (rapid) tests and PCR tests will come to an end for the general public
  • In line with other countries, tests will be available to purchase from a range of retailers
  • PCR tests for those with COVID symptoms will remain free for the clinically vulnerable, those in the higher age groups and those at the highest risk from COVID-19

Testing can provide confidence to your workers and customers and help protect those around you. They're quick, free and available to anyone without COVID-19 symptoms, giving you the result within 30 minutes.

You should get tested before going into crowded places or spending time with people at greater risk from COVID-19, to check you are COVID-free and not at risk of spreading the virus without knowing.

Read our Guide to rapid testing for coronavirus (COVID-19).

Order tests online on the government website.

Self-isolation

There is no longer a legal requirement to self-isolate. However, we advise people who test positive to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for at least 5 full days, and then continue to follow the guidance until they have received 2 negative test results on consecutive days.

Financial support

From 24 February, self-isolation support payments will stop as there is no longer a legal requirement to self-isolate.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) can be claimed until 24 March. The government will then remove the COVID-19 provisions, returning SSP and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) regulations to pre-pandemic rules:

  • SSP can be claimed after four days
  • ESA can be claimed after seven days

People in urgent need or who need support to self-isolate can call the free We Are Bristol helpline on 0800 694 0184. 

For mental health support, call the 24/7 Support and Connect helpline on 0800 0126 549.

Working from home and returning to work safely

From Wednesday 19 January 2022, it's no longer a requirement to work from home.

You can start planning a safe, gradual return to the workplace or agree alternative working arrangements with employees.

However, if home working arrangements are working for you and your staff there is no immediate need to change.

If you’re reopening your business after a period of closure, you should remember to:

  • complete a COVID-19 risk assessment (hse.gov.uk) to help you manage risk and protect people
  • make sure there is good ventilation in enclosed areas of the workplace to reduce the spread of the virus
  • assess the risk of legionella within your hot and cold water systems
  • increase how often and how thoroughly you normally clean your workplace, and be sure to clean surfaces that you do not normally clean
  • check and test the equipment you have not used while your business was closed

Visit the HSE website for guidance on making your workplace COVID-19 secure.

Domestic and foreign travel

There's a two-tier system in place for foreign travels with countries where travel is permitted and a red list (GOV.UK) where travel is not recommended.

Visit the government website to check the latest guidance for travel to England from another country including COVID-19 tests and quarantine rules.