All non-essential retail stores in England will be able to reopen from 15 June, provided they can adhere to new guidelines to protect workers and customers.
Announcing the move yesterday evening (25 May), Boris Johnson said: “I want people to be confident that they can shop safely, provided they follow the social distancing rules for all premises.
Return to work
“Shops now have the time to implement this guidance before they reopen… This will ensure there can be no doubt about what steps they should take.”
The reopening timeline is contingent on the government’s five tests being met at the next coronavirus review and does not include hairdressers, nail bars and beauty salons, or the hospitality sector.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said the guidance provided “much needed” clarity on what retailers should expect next.
“Safety is the fundamental concern for all retailers and they have been working hard to implement the necessary measures to operate safely over the past weeks. Now that we know which shops can open and when, retailers can begin communicating their plans with their workforces and customers. The industry stands ready to play its part in getting the economy moving again,” she said.
However, the British Association of Independent Retailers said many small shops had been preparing to open from next week.
The guidance outlines what non-essential retailers and branches, which have been closed since March, will need to put in place to keep staff and customers safe.
However, it remains that those who are able to work from home, such as back office staff, should continue to do so, while those who are clinically vulnerable should not be required to return to the workplace.
Who can go back to work?
Employers need to consider which employees are essential for the running of the business and plan for the minimum number of people needed on site for it to operate safely.
If clinically vulnerable, but not “extremely clinically vulnerable”, individuals cannot work from home, they should be offered the option of the safest available on site roles, enabling them to stay two metres away from others.
Employers should also enable staff who are self-isolating to work from home if possible.
Social distancing must be maintained where possible and employers should provide hand washing and hand sanitising facilities; use screens or barriers to separate people; use back-to-back or side-by-side working where possible; and reduce the number of people individuals have contact with by introducing fixed teams or partnering.
Breaks, arrival and departure times should be staggered to avoid crowding and one-way flow systems should be introduced at entry and exit points. Alternatives to touch-based entry systems such as keypads should be investigated.
Employees should be provided with additional parking facilities or bike racks to help them avoid public transport.
Lift occupancy should be minimised and high traffic areas such as canteens, locker rooms and corridors should be regulated.
Markers should be placed on the floor to encourage social distancing and contact during transactions should be minimised.
Retailers should determine the minimum number of people that can enter a store and still comply with social distancing, taking any pinch points into account. They should work with neighbouring businesses to ensure queues outside are effective and safe.
Customers should be encouraged to wash their hands or use hand sanitiser when entering the store and should be discouraged from touching items when browsing. Guidance and visual aids should be provided upon entry.
Customer services that cannot be carried out while maintaining social distancing should be suspended.
Ventilation systems may need to be adjusted before premises reopen.
Work areas and equipment will need to be cleaned frequently, including tills, trolleys, self-checkout machines and betting machines. There is specific guidance for cleaning after a known or suspected Covid-19 case.
Waste disposal facilities should be enhanced and rubbish collection should be increased. Regular handwashing should be encouraged and hand drying facilities should be provided.
Touchpoints where customers have handled items, such as rental equipment or cars that have been test-driven, need to be cleaned after each customer.
Protective equipment should be placed over items that need to be tested by customers, such as furniture.
Personal protective equipment and face coverings
Face coverings are not required by law and PPE should be reserved for high-risk workers, such as those in healthcare. However, if an employee wishes to wear a non-clinical face covering, they should be reminded to wash it after each use, wash hands before and after removing it, and avoid touching their face or face covering.
Return to work communications
Employers will need to provide clear, consistent and regular communication to improve understanding of ways of working. They should engage with worker representatives to explain and agree any changes in working arrangements.
Communication and training materials should be developed prior to returning to site, especially around new procedures for arrival at work.
Visual communications, such as whiteboards, should be encouraged and simple, clear messaging should be adopted.
Employers should regularly engage with employees continuing to work from home or those who are unable to return to work, paying particular attention to their mental health.