As pubs and restaurants open this weekend we consider how regulatory enforcement for complying with Covid-19 social distancing might work.
Apart from in Leicester (and any other area where local lockdown measures may be re-instated) pubs, restaurants and cafes are due to open this weekend in England with many anticipating a bumper period of initial trade as we make the most of the return to some sense of normality.
The government guidance on measures to introduce in pubs, restaurants and cafes was amended last week to incorporate the 1m + alteration so eagerly awaited. It sets out a helpful practical summary of what businesses need to consider prior to re-opening and how to minimise the risks of transmission of the virus. There are however some questions around how enforcement of this guidance might look for those in the trade and what landlords and pub companies can do to minimise the risks.
In order to look at how enforcement might work it is first necessary to consider the legal classification of the guidance released by the government and the regulatory regime in a pre-Covid world (which feels light years ago). This is important as for the most part the arrangements for social distancing requirements in the leisure sector are underpinned by current health and safety law and employment law for those working both front and back of house. The guidance itself confirms that it does not supersede any legal obligations relating to health and safety, entertainment licensing and other relevant regulations.
The legal framework for health and safety and public safety has not changed since Covid-19 with operators under a duty to ensure so far as reasonably practicable the health and safety of their staff and guests. What has clearly changed is the focus on the risks presented by Covid-19 which will require for all organisations a Covid-19 risk assessment. This document should be in writing and published on the website (for those employers with more than 50 workers) and communicated clearly to employees and those implementing the protective measures identified in the risk assessment. All quite straightforward in the cold light of day but what about towards the end of the night after a release from lockdown.
This is where the question of enforcement will be relevant, particularly in the first few days and weeks of opening. We would expect that the relevant local authority takes the lead on checking compliance with Covid-19 public health requirements where issues arise, however, other agencies may also become involved depending upon the circumstances. We have seen that essential retailers who have been open throughout the pandemic have been on the receiving end of police visits after complaints about not meeting social distancing requirements and also as a result of threatening and abusive behaviour towards their staff. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) may also become involved. For those in the leisure sector a similar approach is anticipated.
Here is some practical advice for operators to respond to customer queries or indeed questions from the relevant local authority, HSE or the police:
One last point which will be key to all of this will be communication. Make sure your staff know and understand the new procedures and processes informed by the Covid-19 risk assessment and are able to help customers with any concerns or issues with the use of appropriate signage to reinforce the message.
This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at July 2020. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions
Brexit: transition & beyondRead more
10pm curfew and mandatory table service for food and drink businesses...Read more
Track and trace: How to comply with the new regulationsRead more
The rule of six: Legal obligations on food and drink businesses in...Read more
Seven top questions on returning staff to work during coronavirusRead more
Refunds for events and services affected by public health measures:...Read more
Retail and leisure businesses returning to work: The critical...Read more
Covid-19 and insurance considerationsRead more
Covid-19 health and safety Q&ARead more
The way people shop is constantly evolving, from the growth of online and the changing use of stores...Read more
Helping you navigate your business through the risks and opportunities that Brexit will bring.Read more
Green finance is gaining speed, driven by global climate change pressures and the recognition of the vital role which sustainability plays in a resilient financial services sector.Read more
As businesses adjust to new ways of working and plan for an uncertain future, we keep track of the emerging legal and regulatory issues.Read more
Keep on top of the employment law issues that matter most to you and your business with our new podcast.Read more
Keeping you up to date with the latest guidance on regulatory change and legal impact of the coronavirus pandemic.Read more
While future trading relationship with the EU is negotiated, we will be in a 'status quo' transition period until 31 December 2020. Follow our latest updates.Read more
Our Senior Managers Regime hot topic features news and insight to help banks, building societies, investment firms and UK branches of foreign banks prepare for the new regime.Read more
The clock is ticking for firms to prepare for moving from LIBOR to sterling risk-free rates. Follow our insights and events for strategic advice.Read more