April 12, 2021

Guidance for Businesses Returning to Normal

Insights UK Regional Division
Risk Management

The UK Government proposes to lift restrictions, including returning to work, in three separate stages. Read this article to find a useful guide on their plans to get businesses back up and running.

This article is supported by our risk management partners, Health & Safety Click. For more information on SMEs returning to work, please visit www.archriskmanagement.co.uk. This is available to most Arch Online Policyholders, to see if your client has membership or to sign up to the website, contact your local Arch branch manager. This article is intended for use by licensed insurance brokers and should be considered for general information purposes only.


The UK Government has published (110520) guidance for employers to help them get their businesses back up and running and workplaces operating as safely as possible. The new guidance covers eight workplace settings which are allowed to be open. The UK Government proposes to lift restrictions, including returning to work, in 3 separate stages as below.

Step 1

  • For the foreseeable future, workers should continue to work from home rather than their normal physical workplace, wherever possible
  • Parts of the economy that are allowed to open should do so, including food production, construction, manufacturing, logistics, distribution and scientific research
  • Employees in these industries are now asked to return to work but should avoid public transport on their commute where possible
  • As soon as practicable, workplaces should follow the new “COVID-19 Secure” guidelines (available at www.archriskmanagement.co.uk) some of which are still to be published, all of which are likely to include asking employers to take steps to reduce unnecessary contact between workers
  • Hospitality and other non-essential shops will remain shut during this period
  • Other measures relate to schools, travel, face coverings, public space, shielding, international travel, and enforcement.

Step 2

  • The UK Government’s current aim is that the second step will be made no earlier than Monday 1 June, subject to conditions being satisfied.
  • The current planning assumption for England is that the second step may include as many of the following measures as possible, consistent with the government’s five tests. Organisations should prepare accordingly, it says. The measures cover schools, a phased re-opening of all non-essential retail businesses, cultural and sporting events, and social and family contact.

Step 3

  • The final part of the UK Government plan is not expected to come into force before 4 July and relies on scientific and medical advisers being satisfied the previous measures have not caused a spike in the infection rate.
  • During this final stage, the government would hope to reopen at least some of the remaining businesses, including personal care (such as hairdressers and beauty salons) hospitality (such as food service providers, pubs and accommodation), public places (such as places of worship) and leisure facilities (like cinemas). They should also meet the COVID-19 Secure guidelines.

Practical steps for businesses are focused on five key points, which should be implemented as soon as it is practical:

Work from home, if you can

All reasonable steps should be taken by employers to help people work from home. But for those who cannot work from home and whose workplace has not been told to close, our message is clear: you should go to work. Staff should speak to their employer about when their workplace will open.

Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment, in consultation with workers or trade unions

This guidance operates within current health and safety employment and equalities legislation and employers will need to carry out COVID-19 risk assessments in consultation with their workers or trade unions, to establish what guidelines to put in place. If possible, employers should publish the results of their risk assessments on their website and we expect all businesses with over 50 employees to do so.

Maintain 2 metres social distancing, wherever possible

Employers should re-design workspaces to maintain 2 metre distances between people by staggering start times, creating one-way walk-throughs, opening more entrances and exits, or changing seating layouts in break rooms.

Where people cannot be 2 metres apart, manage transmission risk

Employers should look into putting barriers in shared spaces, creating workplace shift patterns or fixed teams minimising the number of people in contact with one another, or ensuring colleagues are facing away from each other.

Reinforcing cleaning processes

Workplaces should be cleaned more frequently, paying close attention to high-contact objects like door handles and keyboards. Employers should provide handwashing facilities or hand sanitisers at entry and exit points.

For more information, including downloadable notices for business who have followed these guidelines, visit the Business Reactivation toolkit page here on Arch Risk Management.