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COVID-19: Businesses: Reopening and working safely

Last updated: 14 May 2021


  1. Overview
  2. Risk assessments
  3. NHS Test and Trace
  4. Self-isolating
  5. Testing
  6. Water safety checks
  7. Close contact services
  8. Hospitality businesses
  9. Indoor leisure facilities and group exercise
  10. Outdoor structures and seating
  11. Get in touch


This page aims to give an overview of the guidance for reopening your business safely, and to inform you of where to get more advice. 

For full guidance, visit the Government website. There is dedicated information and advice for different types of workplaces.

GOV.UK: Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)

GOV.UK: Business support

GOV.UK: Worker support

GOV.UK: Travel guidance for passengers

For more advice and guidance on reopening safely, watch the Youtube videos:

Youtube: Helping workplaces reopen safely

Risk assessments

You must have a COVID-19 risk assessment. If you're reopening after being closed, review your risk assessment first. 

If you have fewer than five workers, or are self-employed, you don't have to put your risk assessment in writing, but it can be useful to do so.

In your risk assessment you should:

  1. Identify what work activity or situations might cause transmission of the virus, including customers accessing indoor areas such as toilets and outdoor area access
  2. Think about who could be at risk
  3. Decide how likely it is that someone could be exposed
  4. Act to remove the activity or situation, or if this isn't possible, control the risk
  5. Include an up-to-date plan for what you will do in the event of an outbreak in your workplace
  6. Nominate a member of staff as the single point of contact (SPOC) who will contact local Public Health teams
  7. Identify risks from periods of closure e.g. stagnating water and the risk of legionella - check the HSE website for more guidance

It's important to share and discuss your updated risk assessment with your staff as a reminder. You will need to:

  • explain any changes you are planning to make to working practices
  • make sure changes will work and hear employees' ideas
  • think about how you will communicate the risk assessment to those who don't have English as their first language and others who may struggle with written and verbal communication

The Health and Safety Executive has published information on how to do a COVID-19 risk assessment. Go to HSE: Risk assessments.

NHS Test and Trace

Legally, you must take part in NHS Test and Trace.

Businesses must:

  • display an official NHS QR code poster - GOV.UK: Create a coronavirus NHS QR code for your venue
  • request that all customers and visitors aged 16 or over check in to the venue by scanning the NHS QR Code or providing their contact details
  • for those who don't check in using the app, collect:
    • name of the customer or visitor
    • contact phone number for each customer or visitor (or an email address if they don't have a phone number - if neither are available, then postal address)
    • date of visit, arrival time and, where possible, departure time
    • name of the assigned staff member, if a customer or visitor will interact with only one member of staff (for example, a hairdresser) record this alongside the name of the customer or visitor
  • keep a record of all staff including shift times
  • provide an alternative method to collect contact details from your customers and visitors who do not have a smartphone or who do not wish to use the NHS app
  • must keep data for 21 days and provide it to NHS Test and Trace, if requested - check what data you need to collect and how it should be managed
  • hospitality venues must take reasonable steps to refuse entry to those who refuse to participate in NHS Test and Trace

    This includes hospitality, tourism, leisure, close contact services, community centres and village halls.

    GOV.UK: NHS Test and Trace workplace guidance

    Self isolating

    Make sure that you and your employees know when to self-isolate. For full information about self-isolation, symptoms and close contacts, visit: NHS: When to self-isolate and what to do

    If you know that an employee has been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, it is your legal duty to not allow them to come into work or work anywhere other than where they are self-isolating (usually their home) for their full self-isolation period. Failure to do so could result in your firm facing a fine, starting from £1,000. Remind them that they may not leave their house for anything (even shopping). Reassure them that they are doing the right thing by keeping themselves and others safe.


    Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms must book a test. Visit GOV.UK: Get a COVID-19 test.

    People without symptoms can get free rapid lateral flow tests. Visit NHS: Regular rapid tests if you do not have symptoms.

    To enquire about on-site or local testing for staff without symptoms, email

    For information on what to do if you have a confirmed case in the workplace, see COVID-19 information for businesses.

    More about COVID-19 testing in South Tyneside.

    Water safety checks

    After buildings have been closed, there's an increased risk of waterborne pathogens (such as Legionella bacteria) being present. Think about this before putting water systems back into use.

    For information, go to Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH): Legionella guidance (COVID-19).

    Close contact services

    Guidance has been updated to include measures you should follow in step 3 of the Government's roadmap from Monday 17 May. Changes include:

    • saunas and steam rooms can reopen 
    • updated social contact rules (gatherings of up to 30 people are permitted outdoors; gatherings of up to 6 people or 2 households of any size are permitted indoors) 
    • you can provide reading materials such as newspapers and magazines in client waiting areas
    • you can provide refreshments in line with guidance for restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services

    Tips for close contact services:

    • Make sure everyone keeps a two metre distance. Where this isn't possible, use other control measures such as barriers or screens.
    • Practitioners should wear both a clear visor or goggles and a type II face mask.
    • Only provide a waiting area if social distancing can be maintained.
    • Maximise ventilation e.g. keeping doors and windows open.
    • Use disposable items where possible.
    • Clients must wear a face covering, unless they are exempt (see Government guidance on face coverings). If a client isn't wearing one, politely ask if they have a valid reason. They do not need to provide evidence or show an exemption card. 
    • Treatments to the face can take place. Minimise the time in contact with the client and keep appointments short. You may wish to reduce the types of treatments offered to keep the time and risk to a minimum. During face treatments, clients can remove their face covering for the minimum time needed to carry out the treatment, then the face covering should be put back on.
    • Between clients, clean and disinfect equipment (such as chairs, treatment beds, tools, scissors) as well as surfaces, particularly those that are touched. 
    • Both the client and the practitioner should use hand sanitiser or wash their hands before the treatment.
    • If you are a contact of someone that has tested positive for COVID-19 you will be notified by NHS Test and Trace. If you are identified as a contact and asked to self-isolate then you should do so. This will decide if you need to close or not and is why you should implement COVID-secure measures.

    For full guidance, including a list of priority actions businesses need to take to protect staff and customers, visit the Government website: 

    GOV.UK: Close contact services

    Hospitality businesses

    Guidance has been updated to include measures you should follow in step 3 of the Government's roadmap from Monday 17 May. Changes include:

    • serving customers indoors
    • updated social contact rules (gatherings of up to 30 people are permitted outdoors; gatherings of up to 6 people or 2 households of any size are permitted indoors) 
    • relaxation of rules around live performances, business events and soft play areas

    Tips for reopening indoor hospitality safely:

    • keep the premises well ventilated by keeping windows and doors open and heating turned off.
    • place tables far enough apart to allow different groups to be 2m apart when seated (or 1m with risk assessed mitigation).
    • up to six people from separate households or two households can share a table indoors. Groups of up to 30 can share a table outdoors.
    • check customer groups on arrival and put up signs to remind customers to stay within their group.
    • use NHS Test and Trace and keep a record of all customers, visitors and staff for 21 days. For premises  opening up for the first time since last year, changes to Test and Trace requirements now mean that every person over 16 needs to check in or leave their contact details.
    • ask staff and customers to use hand sanitiser and wash hands regularly.
    • clean surfaces often.
    • offer table service only and encourage contactless payments. Avoid using the bar as a seating area.
    • customers must be seated to order and consume food and alcohol.
    • avoid staff and customer contact and minimise self-service.
    • lower music and background noise to prevent shouting, singing and dancing.
    • make sure everyone is social distancing, especially when queuing.
    • any outdoor gazebos or shelters no longer need to have 50% of their walls removed unless they are in a smoking area. If they are more than 50% enclosed, the rule of six or two households will apply to their use.
    • remind customers to wear a face covering indoors whenever they aren't seated.
    • make sure you complete a Covid-19 risk assessment and share it with your staff.
    • if you have five employees or more you'll need a written assessment.
    • make sure you know what to do if staff develop symptoms or if they report positive test results.

    For full guidance, including a list of priority actions businesses need to take to protect staff and customers, visit the Government website: 

    GOV.UK: Restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services

    For guidance on screening the Euro 2020 tournament, visit British Beer and Pub Association: Euro 2020 Guidance

    Indoor leisure centres and group exercise

    Group exercise classes can start again in indoor leisure centres from Monday 17 May.

    Tips for indoor leisure centres:

    • Make sure your Covid-19 risk assessment has been updated with any new activities you introduce. Share it with your staff and tell them if anything changes. If you have 5 employees or more you'll need to write it down.
    • Maximise ventilation- open doors and windows - this is especially important in group exercises, where respiratory rate of participants is high.
    • Ask staff and customers to use hand sanitiser and wash hands often.
    • Minimise sharing equipment and make sure it is cleaned between users.
    • Clean regularly throughout the day and pay particular attention to hand contact points, equipment and surfaces. Allow sufficient client time between classes for full sanitisation of the room and equipment used.
    • Minimise use of changing rooms and showers - encourage customers to shower and change at home where possible.
    • Ask customers to wear a face covering where required to do so indoors, especially in communal areas and when entering and leaving.
    • Make sure that all water systems, including showers and sinks, are safe after prolonged closure to minimise risk of Legionella. See water safety checks.
    • Take particular care to clean water fountains, and make sure these are only used for filling water bottles and containers. Face to tap drinking should not be allowed.
    • Take part in NHS Test and Trace, display the official QR code poster and/or keep a record of all your customers, visitors and staff for 21 days.

    For full guidance, including a list of priority actions businesses need to take to protect staff and customers, visit the Government website:

    GOV.UK: (COVID-19) Coronavirus restrictions: what you can and cannot do

    Outdoor structures and seating

    To place tables, chairs or other temporary furniture on the pavement in South Tyneside, you need a licence from South Tyneside Council. More about pavement licences (outdoor seating).

    From Monday 17 May, the requirements for outdoor structures provided for customers will change.

    Things to think about when setting up an outdoor structure: 

    • Outdoor structures such as a tent or gazebo need to meet the same criteria that applies to a smoking shelter in certain circumstances.
    • Where outdoor structures are used as smoking areas or to accommodate groups of more than six people or two households, at least 50% of the walls must be open and removed from the shelter.
    • Doors, windows and other fittings that can be opened or shut must be counted as part of the enclosed area.
    • Open sides of the structure must be at least 1.5m away from walls, fences, hedges or other obstructions that will impede ventilation.
    • If your structure does not meet the 50% rule it will be classed as substantially enclosed and the rules for indoor hospitality will apply.
    • Please also consider your near neighbours for noise and intrusive light impact.
    • Any temporary demountable structures must be erected and maintained by suitably trained and competent persons (such as MUTA registered contractor) and in accordance with manufacturer's instructions. 
    • Stability calculations are needed for larger pole marquees (greater than 12m in span) and framed tents (greater than 9m in span). Discuss this with your contractor supplier. 
    • Small tents or marquees can be used without producing stability calculations and can typically be proven by long established use.
    • You must carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment in respect of any temporary structure erected as part of your work activity. This should take account of any tables, chairs or other structures you intend to place within or under the structure. You must also consider what the structure will be used for, what it needs to be able to do, who will use it and how.
    • During use of temporary structures, weather conditions should be monitored. If high winds are forecast or exceed the maximum in-service windspeeds for the design of the temporary structure, then it should be closed from use or taken down. Rainwater pooling on the roof of structures should be regularly removed to prevent overloading and risk of collapse. 
    • In the event of adverse weather conditions, you should know what to do with any structure and any equipment within it to protect its stability. You should also have suitable measures in place to prevent unauthorised persons tampering with any structure, equipment or ballast for example, by erecting a barrier or something similar around the base of the equipment.
    • Anchoring of marquees and tented structures is critical to their stability. The pull-out force that an anchorage stake can withstand depends on ground conditions, angle and the depth of the anchor. The effectiveness of anchorage stakes can vary significantly between different sites. The suitability of anchorage stakes for larger structures should be checked by a competent person using calibrated 'pull test' equipment. The use of ballast / weights can provide a suitable alternative for the anchorage of temporary structures. Care should be taken to ensure ballast / weights at each anchor point provides sufficient resistance to wind uplift to meet with manufacturer instructions / structural engineer's design.
    • You should also have arrangements in place to make sure the structure is regularly inspected by a competent person during the time it is installed, in line with your risk assessment and, if needed, arrange for remedial works.

    Get in touch

    Please get in touch if you run a business and have any further queries or questions about keeping your staff and customers safe, or if you would like to book an advisory visit to your premises to discuss in more detail.

    You can also contact us if you're a member of the public and would like to report concerns about COVID secure measures in premises in South Tyneside.

    Email us at:

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