HM Insights

Coronavirus: New restrictions on businesses

Correct as of 22 April 2020

On 21 April 2020 the Scottish Government announced amendments to The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 in particular to regulation 4 of the principal regulations which relate to restrictions and closures during the current emergency period.

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The effect of those amendments is the extension of social distancing requirements to all businesses which remain open during the emergency period. Previously these requirements only applied to businesses listed in schedule 1 part 3 of the regulations which included food retailers, pharmacies, newsagents, post offices and other businesses deemed essential. However as mentioned above these restrictions now apply to all businesses which remain open.

What restrictions does regulation 4 impose?

Many people will be familiar with regulation 4 and will have seen it in operation if they have visited a supermarket or other shop during the emergency period. It essentially imposes three separate obligations to anyone who is responsible for carrying on a business during the emergency period. So businesses must:

  • take all reasonable measures to ensure that a distance of two metres is maintained between any persons on the premises
  • take all reasonable measures to ensure that it only admits people to its premises in sufficiently small numbers to make it possible to maintain that distance,
  • take all reasonable measures to ensure that a distance of two metres is maintained between any person waiting to enter its premises

In the announcement by the First Minister outlining the amendments to the regulations, she outlined that Police will have the ability to enforce these requirements to all businesses not just those previously covered by regulation 4.

If employers are carrying on business at present, then they will need to make sure that these requirements are followed, otherwise if an offence under this regulation committed by a body corporate (e.g. a company) is proved then a manager or director (as well as the body corporate) that commits the offence is at risk of prosecution and punishment, by way of fine.

Social distancing in the workplace - principles

Employers should therefore take note and ensure if they are requiring staff to attend they ensure reasonable measures are taken to ensure staff are two metres apart at all times.  If possible, ensure only limited staff attend the premises. The practical implementation of this advice will depend on the local circumstances.

A few general steps will be relevant to the majority of settings:

  • Use signs and have regular announcements/reminders to staff to follow social distancing.
  • Where it is possible to remain 2 metres apart, use floor markings to mark the distance, particularly in the most crowded areas, using signage such as floor markings to facilitate compliance. This includes entry points to buildings, toilets and communal break areas where queues may form.
  • 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 to a minimum and keep teams as small as possible.

Employers could also consider shift working if appropriate or the staggering of processes which would enable staff to continue to operate both effectively and where possible at a safe distance (more than 2 metres) from one another.  Staggering on-premises hours to reduce public transport use during peak periods will provide benefit to employees, Employers and the wider public effort.

Get in touch

If you've any queries about this, or any other employment related matter that could affect your business, our team of specialist employment lawyers can assist. Please contact us on 0131 247 2534 to discuss further.

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