“As a general rule, the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information.”
Covid is everywhere – on the TV, in the newspapers, on news apps, websites – there is so much advice and guidance, dos and do nots, rights and wrongs that it can often be too confusing and is resulting in Covid information overload.
Business owners are spending a lot of their day searching on the internet for updates that apply to their sector or business as the legislation is changing so quickly. The guidance published is sometimes wordy and generic and the question everyone wants answered is ‘What do I need to do?’
Currently I spend a lot of my time trying to find and interpret the relevant Covid legislation and guidance. I can then pass this information on to business owners and answer their questions so that they have the ‘best’ information that applies to them.
I have put together the top 10 questions and answers that I frequently get asked that relate specifically to food businesses here:
Question#1: Do my staff need to wear face coverings at work?
Yes, all staff who are in a customer facing position must wear a face covering whilst they are at work. Unfortunately the exemptions in the law do not apply. If you have a member of staff with a medical exemption you should try and find them an alternative role or job, for example, at a till point if there is a substantial barrier or screen or make reasonable adaptations or adjustments.
Question#2: Do all customers need to wear face coverings when they visit my restaurant?
Yes, unless they have an exemption, for example a medical condition or they are a child under 11.
Question#3: Can I refuse entry or to serve someone who isn’t wearing a face covering?
Yes, but again only if they are not exempt and they choose not to wear a face covering – they could also get a fine for this.
The law specifically says that you should not refuse someone if they are exempt but there is no requirement to prove an exemption. Many people are now wearing lanyards or carrying a card with the fact that they have an exemption which can help to make things easier for everyone involved.
Question#4: My business is in a high or tier 2 Covid alert level area, where can I find advice relating to this?
The supporting guidance on working safely in shops, restaurants, community settings etc. only applies now to those businesses in a medium or tier 1 Covid alert level area. Additional guidance specifically for tier 2 can be found here HIGH and tier 3 here VERY HIGH.
Question#5: I am in a medium alert level area. What do I do about customers visiting from a high alert level area?
Remember ‘Tier 2 follows you’ so those customers from the high alert area must follow the same rules even though they are visiting a lower alert level area. So they should only visit your restaurant in a household or social bubble group indoors and not with other friends or relatives
Question#6: I am a takeaway restaurant that does deliveries do I need to shut at 10pm?
No, the law says businesses serving food and drink on the premises must shut at 10pm. If you do deliveries, drive thru or click and collect, and customers order on online or by phone you can stay open after the 10pm curfew.
Question#7: the law says that customers can only order and be served if alcohol is served if they are seated. Does this mean that customers can sit at the bar?
Yes , the law does not actually specify ‘table service but the guidance does which is confusing. Therefore sitting on a stool at the bar would be be lawful HOWEVER there should definitely be a screen or barrier to ensure social distancing.
Question#8: Can staff or customers wear just a visor?
No, the law specifies a face covering that covers the mouth and nose. A visor does not protect the wearer from coronavirus transmission as it could be spread easily around the sides and underneath it. If a person exempt from wearing a face covering wanted to wear a visor that would be their choice and should be allowed.
Question#9: What is the difference between a face mask and a face covering.
A face mask is designed to protect the wearer from coronavirus transmission and is classed as PPE whereas a face covering is not. Face masks are generally only required in clinical settings where the risk of passing on the coronavirus is higher.
Question#10: what should I do if I one of my staff tests positive for coronavirus?
Firstly make sure this member of staff does not come to work and advise them to self isolate. They should also follow any advice given from NHS test and trace. Make sure any other staff this person has been in close contact with in their work cohort or bubble also self isolates for the specified time.
It is a good idea to deep clean the workplace particularly the areas where this member of staff has been working. Follow the advice cleaning non clinical settings.