New guidance for reopening businesses safely

13 May 2020, Ellie Whitlock, Policy and Public Affairs Executive, CIEH

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To support the phased approach to the reopening of businesses in England, the Government has published new guidance to help employers, employees and the self-employed understand how to work safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The guidance documents were released alongside the Government’s overall COVID-19 recovery strategy and FAQs covering the new rules that come into effect today in England.

Environmental Health Practitioners (EHPs) will no doubt have a vital role supporting businesses to implement the new guidance and protecting workers through a range of enforcement and advice functions. The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 were amended yesterday and new guidance is expected soon for local authorities.

As businesses reopen and employees return to work, we will continue to monitor the situation and work closely with relevant officials, agencies, and government departments. Please get in touch with us if you have any concerns or questions you would like us to raise.

The new guidance covers eight workplace settings which are allowed to be open:

The guidance maps out steps that employers and employees can take to maintain social distancing in different scenarios, including when arriving and leaving work, moving around buildings and worksites, in meetings and in common areas. 

Steps to mitigate the risks of transmission during activities where a two metre social distance cannot be achieved are also included. For example, increasing the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning, using screens or barriers to separate people from each other and reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’.

Other key areas addressed in the guidance include cleaning and hygiene in the workplace and using personal protective equipment (PPE) and face coverings. Each guide is tailored to reflect the issues and challenges faced in that particular workplace setting.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland has not amended the current regulations or lockdown restrictions at present. The Northern Ireland Executive has published its phased five-stage plan for slowly moving out of lockdown. Unlike the plan for England, there are no specific dates set. Rather the Northern Ireland Executive has stipulated criteria that must be achieved in order to progress from one stage to the next. The first stage of the plan allows for groups of four to six people who do not share a household to meet outdoors while maintaining social distancing. No specific date has been set for when those unable to work from home will be encouraged to return to work.


The Welsh Government announced changes to its lockdown rules last week, which came into force on Monday. The new rules allow people to exercise more than once a day locally, garden centres to reopen with social distancing and local authorities to begin planning how to safely reopen libraries and municipal recycling centres.

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