Rachael Lloyd
Posted on 27 Mar 2020

Staying at Home and Away from Others: Impact on Businesses

[This content is correct as at 27 March 2020]

On 23 March, the Prime Minister announced, in effect, a UK-wide 'lockdown'.

Three new measures were introduced, in order to reduce the spread of infection:

  • Requirement for people to stay at home, except for very limited purposes
  • Closure of non-essential shops and community spaces and
  • Prevention of public gatherings of more than two people.

These measures are effective immediately, and in place for an initial period of three weeks, after which they will be reviewed.

At the moment, there are many uncertainties about the details of the new regime. Further regulations are due later today – we are hopeful for clarification and will update you in due course.

Staying at home

Individuals should only leave the house for one of four reasons, including for travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.

There is no guidance on whether this applies only to 'essential' work, such as for supermarket staff or medical workers. With no further elaboration on this point, our view at present is that, if an employee's work cannot be carried out from home, your business has not been instructed to close (see below) and, when at work, that employee is able to comply with social distancing rules, then they are able to travel to work.

Closing non-essential shops and public spaces

Last week, the Government ordered certain businesses, including pubs, cinemas and theatres, to close.

This requirement has now been extended to further categories of businesses.

The following businesses must remain closed (until further notice):

Business, premises or place

Exceptions

Food and Drink

Restaurants and public houses, wine bars or other drinking establishments, or other food and drink establishments including within hotels and members' clubs

Food delivery and takeaway can remain operationaland can be a new activity supported by the new permitted development right. This covers the provision of hot or cold food that has been prepared for consumers for collection or delivery to be consumed, reheated or cooked by consumers off the premises.

Cafes, including workplace canteens

Food delivery and takeaway can remain operational.

Cafes or canteens at hospitals, care homes or schools; prisons and military canteens; services providing food and drink to the homeless.

Where there are no practical alternatives, other workplace canteens can remain open to provide food for their staff and/or provide a space for breaks. However, where possible, staff should be encouraged to bring their own food, and distributors should move to takeaway. Measures should be taken to minimise the number of people in the canteen/break space at any one given time, for example by using a rota.

Retail

Hair, beauty and nail salons, including piercing and tattoo parlours

 

All retail with notable exceptions

  • Supermarkets and other food shops
  • Medical services (such as dental surgeries, opticians and audiology clinics, physiotherapy clinics, chiropody and podiatry clinics, and other professional vocational medical services)
  • Pharmacies and chemists, including non-dispensing pharmacies
  • Petrol stations
  • Bicycle shops
  • Hardware shops and equipment, plan and tool hire
  • Laundrettes and dry cleaners
  • Cargarages and MOT services
  • Car parks
  • Vehicle  rental services
  • Veterinary surgeries and pet shops
  • Agricultural supplies shops
  • Corner shops and newsagents
  • Off-licences and licensed shops selling alcohol, including those within breweries
  • Post offices
  • High street banks, building societies, short-term loan providers, credit unions and cash points
  • Storage and distribution facilities, including delivery drop off points where they are on the premises of any of the above businesses
  • Public toilets
  • Shopping centres should stay open if they contain units which are not required to close.

Outdoor and indoor markets

Market stalls which offer essential retail, such as grocery and food

Auction houses

 

Hotels

Hotels, hostels, B&Bs, campsites and boarding houses for commercial use

Where people live in these as interim abodes whilst their primary residence is unavailable, they may continue to do so.

Key workers and non-UK residents who are unable to travel to their country of residence during this period can continue to stay in hotels or similar where required.

People who are unable to move into a new home due to the current restrictions can also stay in hotels.

Where hotels, hostels, and B&Bs are providing rooms to support homeless and other vulnerable people such as those who cannot safely stay in their home, through arrangements with local authorities and other public bodies, they may remain open.

Those attending a funeral will be able to use hotels when returning home would be impractical.

Hotels are allowed to host blood donation sessions.

Caravan parks / sites for commercial uses

Where people live permanently in caravan parks or are staying in caravan parks as interim abodes where their primary residence is not available, they may continue to do so.

Non-residential institutions

Libraries

Digital library services and no-contact Home Library Services should continue.

Community centres, youth centres and similar

Facilities may remain open for the purpose of hosting essential voluntary or public services, such as food banks, homeless services and blood donation sessions.

Public venues that host blood donation sessions can continue to open temporarily for these services only. A distance of two metres should be maintained as per Public Health England guidelines.

Places of worship for services

Funerals in places of worship and crematoria, where the congregation is immediate family (with provision for a carer, if required) or a friend – in the case that no family members are attending. A distance of two metres is to be maintained between every household group, as per Public Health England guidelines.

A minister of religion, to go to their place of worship may broadcast an act of worship, whether over the internet or otherwise.

For the purpose of hosting essential voluntary or public service, such as food banks, homeless services, and blood donation sessions. 

Assembly and Leisure

Museums and galleries

 

Nightclubs

 

Cinemas, theatres and concert halls

Small group performances for the purposes of live streaming could be permissible where Public Health England guidelines are observed and no audience attends the venue.

Bingo halls, casinos and betting shops

 

Spas and massage parlours

 

Skating rinks

 

Fitness studios, gyms, swimming pools or other indoor leisure centres

Any suitable assembly or leisure premises may stay open for blood donation sessions. 

Arcades, bowling alleys, soft play centres and similar

 

Funfairs

 

Outdoor recreation

Playgrounds, sports courts and pitches, and outdoor gyms or similar

 

Takeaway and delivery facilities should remain open and operational

Members of the public can continue to enter premises to access takeaway services, including delivery drivers. Businesses are encouraged to take orders online or by telephone, and businesses should not provide seating areas, indoors and outdoors. Ordering in advance is strongly encouraged to avoid waiting in a communal area.

Planning regulation has been changed to enable restaurants, cafes and pubs which do not currently offer delivery and hot food takeaway to do so. People must not consume food or drinks on site at restaurants, cafes or pubs whilst waiting for takeaway food. Those venues offering takeaway or delivery services must not include alcoholic beverages in this list if their licence does not already permit.

Work carried out in people's homes

The Government has clarified that work carried out in people's homes; for example, by tradespeople carrying out repairs and maintenance, can continue, provided that the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms. It will be important to ensure that the Public Health England guidelines are followed, including maintaining a two metre distance from any household occupants, in order to ensure everyone's safety.

No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing and repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so.

No work should be carried out by a tradesperson who has Coronavirus symptoms, however mild.

Guidance for those businesses which remain open

Online retail can remain open and is encouraged.

There are some notable absences from the list of closed businesses, including construction sites. In the absence of any guidance to the contrary, it is assumed that those can remain open for now, as long as the appropriate social distancing and stay at home Government guidelines are followed where applicable.

For those businesses, including certain retail stores and public premises, which the Government expects to remain open, must abide by the following guidelines:

  • Ensure a distance of two metres between customers and shop assistants; and
  • Let customers enter the premises only in small groups, to ensure that spaces are not crowded.

Queue control is required outside of shops and other essential premises that remain open.

Prevention of public gatherings

As indicated above, in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Government is preventing all public gatherings of more than two people.

The only two exceptions to this rule is where the gathering is a group of people who live together, or where the gathering is essential for work purposes. Notwithstanding this, workers should be trying to minimise all meetings and other gatherings in those workplaces which remain open.

Support for Businesses which have been forced to close

  1. Retail, Hospitality & Leisure Grant

In England, businesses and premises in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors will be eligible for cash grants of up to £25,000 per property.

Depending on the property's rateable value, businesses can receive grants of between £10,000 and £25,000. Businesses with a rateable value of over £51,000 are not eligible.

More information can be found on the Government website.

  1. Business rates

In England, the Government will provide a business rates holiday for businesses and premises in the retail, hospitality and/or leisure sector. This will be applied automatically to the next rates bills in April 2020.

  1. Business Interruption Loan Scheme

The scheme will support SMEs with access to loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million and for up to 6 years.

The Government will also make a 'Business Interruption Payment' to cover the first 12 months of interest payments and any lender-levied fees.

The Government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to pre-lender cap on claims). The scheme will be provided through commercial lenders, backed by the Government-owned British Business Bank.

Your business will be eligible for the scheme if:

  • It is UK based, with a turnover of no more than £45 million per year and
  • It meets the other British Business Bank eligibility criteria.

To apply, you will need to contact your bank or one of the 40 accredited finance providers, which can be found on the British Business Bank website.

  1. Job Retention Scheme

On 20 March 2020, the Government announced the implementation of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ('the Scheme'), to try and help businesses and employees alike through these unprecedented times. The aim of the Scheme is to protect jobs and try to avoid redundancies.

For further detail on the Job Retention Scheme please click here

If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article, or have other concerns about the impact of Coronavirus, please contact Rachael Lloyd, James Baker or Andrew Tobey in Michelmores' Employment team.

CORONAVIRUS STOP PRESS – Click here to keep up-to-date with all of our latest articles.

This article is for information purposes only and is not a substitute for legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Please contact our specialist lawyers to discuss any issues you are facing.