Coronavirus: Guidance for Businesses & Employers

Last updated 19 May 2020.

For the latest medical advice, visit

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At this difficult time I know all local employers are trying to look after all of their employees as best they can. Below is a summary of advice for employers and businesses to follow to protect their workforce and customers, whilst continuing to trade. It includes social distancing, hygiene, cleanliness, staff sickness advice and staying at home. 

Key Messages

The government understands that employers and businesses may have concerns about how they can remain open for business safely, and so play their part in preventing the spread of the virus. 

  • All employees should be encouraged to work from home unless it is impossible for them to do so.
  • Not everyone can work from home: certain jobs require people to travel to, from and for their work – for instance to operate machinery, work in construction or manufacturing, or to deliver front line services
  • Only some non-essential shops and public venues have been asked to close – see more detailed information on the businesses and venues that must close, and those that are exempt.
  • If someone becomes unwell in the workplace with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature, they should be sent home and advised to follow the advice to stay at home.
  • Employees should be reminded to wash their hands for 20 seconds more frequently and catch coughs and sneezes in tissues.
  • Frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, using your standard cleaning products
  • Employees will need your support to adhere to the recommendation to stay at home to reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) to others
  • Those who follow advice to stay at home will be eligible for statutory sick pay (SSP) from the first day of their absence from work
  • Employers should use their discretion concerning the need for medical evidence for certification for employees who are unwell. This will allow GPs to focus on their patients
  • If evidence is required by an employer, those with symptoms of coronavirus can get an isolation note from NHS 111 online, and those who live with someone that has symptoms can get a note from the NHS website
  • Members of staff who are vulnerable or extremely vulnerable, as well as individuals whom they live with, should be supported as they follow the recommendations set out in guidance on social distancing and shielding. respectively.
  • Make sure everyone’s contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date.

Business Closures

During this time of unprecedented disruption, the UK Government is not asking all businesses to shut – indeed it is important for business to carry on. Only some non-essential shops and public venues have been asked to close.

For a full list of businesses that must close, visit:

Businesses Remaining Open



General Guidance

  • Keep everyone updated on actions being taken to reduce risks of exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19) in the workplace
  • Ensure employees who are in an extremely vulnerable group and should be shielded are supported to stay at home

Social Distancing

  • Social distancing involves reducing day-to-day contact with other people as much as possible, in order to reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Businesses and workplaces should encourage their employees to work at home, wherever possible.
  • Workplaces need to avoid crowding and minimise opportunities for the virus to spread by maintaining a distance of at least 2 metres (3 steps) between individuals wherever possible. This advice applies both to inside the workplace, and to where staff may need to interact with customers.
  • A few general indicators will be relevant to the majority of business settings:
    • Make regular announcements to remind staff and/or customers to follow social distancing advice and wash their hands regularly.
    • Encourage the use of digital and remote transfers of material where possible rather than paper format, such as using e-forms, emails and e-banking.
    • Provide additional pop-up handwashing stations or facilities if possible, providing soap, water, hand sanitiser and tissues and encourage staff to use them.
    • Where it is possible to remain 2 metres apart, use floor markings to mark the distance, particularly in the most crowded areas (for example, where queues form).
    • Where it is not possible to remain 2 metres apart, staff should work side by side, or facing away from each other, rather than face to face if possible.
    • Where face-to-face contact is essential, this should be kept to 15 minutes or less wherever possible.
    • As much as possible, keep teams of workers together (cohorting), and keep teams as small as possible
  • Additionally, for customer-facing businesses (such as supermarkets, butchers, etc):
    • Use signage to direct movement into lanes, if feasible, while maintaining a 2 metre distance.
    • Regulate entry so that the premises do not become overcrowded.
    • Use additional signage to ask customers not to enter the premises if they have symptoms.
    • If feasible, place plexiglass barriers at points of regular interaction as an additional element of protection for workers and customers (where customers might touch or lean against these, ensure they are cleaned and disinfected as often as is feasible in line with standard cleaning procedures).
  • Where the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full in relation to a particular activity, businesses should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to operate, and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between their staff. Potential mitigating actions are set out in these illustrative industry examples

Workplace Hygiene

  • Frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, using your standard cleaning products.
  • Make sure there are places to wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, and encourage everyone to do so regularly.
  • Provide hand sanitiser and tissues for staff, and encourage them to use them.

Staff Canteens and Rest Areas

Where possible, staff should be encouraged to bring their own food, and staff canteens and distributors should move to takeaway. Where there are no practical alternatives, workplace canteens may remain open to provide food to staff with appropriate adjustments for social distancing.

The following principles should be applied:

  • Staff should be reminded to wash their hands regularly using soap and water for 20 seconds and before and after eating. If possible, increase the number of hand washing stations available.
  • A distance of 2 metres should be maintained between users, wherever possible.
  • Staff can continue to use rest areas if they apply the same social distancing measures.
  • Notices promoting hand hygiene and social distancing should be placed visibly in these areas.
  • Frequently clean and disinfect surfaces that are touched regularly, using your standard cleaning products.
  • Consider extending and staggering meal times to avoid crowding.

Managing Sickness (in the workplace and absences)

  • Make sure managers know how to spot symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) and are clear on any relevant processes, for example sickness reporting and sick pay, and procedures in case someone in the workplace is potentially infected and needs to take the appropriate action
  • Ensure employees who are in an extremely vulnerable group and should be shielded are supported to stay at home
  • Any member of staff who develops symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) (a new, continuous cough and/or a high temperature) should be sent home and stay at home for 7 days from onset of symptoms. If the member of staff lives in a household where someone else is unwell with symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) then they must stay at home in line with the stay at home guidance.
  •  If symptoms develop whilst at work the employee should be sent home, they should return home quickly and directly. If they have to use public transport, they should try to keep away from other people and catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue.
  • Those who follow advice to stay at home and who cannot work as a result will be eligible for statutory sick pay (SSP), even if they are not themselves sick.
  • By law, medical evidence is not required for the first 7 days of sickness. After 7 days, employers may use their discretion around the need for medical evidence if an employee is staying at home. The Government strongly suggests that employers use their discretion around the need for medical evidence for a period of absence where an employee is advised to stay at home either as they are unwell themselves, or live with someone who is, in accordance with the public health advice issued by the government.
  • Employees are entitled to time off work to help someone who depends on them (a ‘dependant’) in an unexpected event or emergency. This would apply to situations related to coronavirus (COVID-19). For example:
    • If they have children they need to look after or arrange childcare for because their school has closed
    • To help their child or another dependant if they’re sick, or need to go into isolation or hospital


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