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Fines, masks and pubs – the new COVID-19 rules your business must follow

As infection rates climb, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced new restrictions that businesses and consumers must obey. Find out what you need to know here.

As Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced, the prospect of a second wave of coronavirus is real.

As the number of positive cases continues to increase, the government has decided that local lockdowns aren’t enough on their own, and new national restrictions are needed to slow the growth of COVID-19.

These new measures go some way short of a new national lockdown (which some of the scientists advising the government have argued for), but will still have a big impact on daily life and how UK businesses operate.

Moreover, the government is getting tough on those who don’t comply, with these new measures accompanied by a threat to fine people and businesses that don’t follow the rules.

This piece will explain what has changed, and how long these rules are likely to stay in place.


What are the new COVID-19 rules?

A number of new measures were announced that impact different areas of society, but these three are the most important for UK businesses.

  • Retail and hospitality staff must wear face masks when at work – this also applies to customers, expect those seated at a table for eating or drinking
  • As previously reported, from Thursday (24th September), pubs, bars and restaurants will have to close at 10pm – they must also only offer table service or takeaway (takeaway and delivery can be provided after 10pm)
  • COVID-19 guidelines are now law, and businesses that break them will be fined and could even be shut down

This also applies to the previously announced rule of 6, which hospitality businesses are legally required to enforce.


How long are these new rules expected to last?

Unless the situation significantly improves (i.e. the number of daily positive cases falls substantially), these new rules will be in place for at least six months.


How will these rules be enforced?

While it’s not clear how enforcement will work in practice, Boris Johnson announced extra police funding and promised a heavier police presence on the streets to ensure that both businesses and consumers were operating responsibly.

Businesses that don’t follow the rules will be fined For example, establishments breaking the rule of six will be fined £1,000 initially.  This will goup to £4,000 for repeat offenders.


What about working from home?

After encouraging companies to get their workers back into offices (whilst following COVID-19 guidelines) in order to aid the UK’s economic recovery, the government has now done a U-turn and the official guidance is that people should work from home if they are able to do so.

The Prime Minister stressed that this didn’t apply to certain sectors like retail and construction.


Who do these rules apply to?

These rules only apply to people and businesses in England, the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will announce their own restrictions.

And, of course, businesses affected by local lockdowns may need to follow more severe restrictions.


Is there any new financial support for businesses?

No new financial support was announced for businesses, but it was previously reported that the government is planning to extend the deadline for the existing financial support schemes (bounce back loans etc), and is considering further measures to support businesses once the furlough scheme is withdrawn.


What else was announced?

The Prime Minister also stated that:

  • Schools, colleges and universities would stay open
  • From Monday (28th September), weddings and wedding receptions can have a maximum of 15 people attending (but funerals can have a maximum of 30)
  • The rule of six has been extended to all indoor team sports
  • Plans to gradually return to crowds at sporting events have been scrapped
  • For individuals, the penalty for failing to wear a mask or breaking the rule of six will be doubled to £200 for a first offence

Key points for your business

The most important new COVID-19 rules for businesses are:

  • Retail and hospitality staff must now wear face masks when at work
  • From Thursday (24th September), pubs, bars and restaurants must close at 10pm and only offer table service or takeaway
  • COVID-19 guidelines are now law, and businesses that don’t comply will be fined and could be shut down

 

  • These new rules are expected to be in place for at least six months
  • The latest guidance is that employees should work from home if they are able to do so

 

  • These rules only apply to people and businesses in England (with the devolved governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland able to set their own rules)

 

  • No new financial support was announced for affected businesses

Alec Hawley
Alec Hawley

Alec is Startups’ resident expert on mobiles, investment, and politics. Before joining, he worked in the media for over a decade, conducting media analysis at Kantar Media and YouGov, writing for computer games sites like Gaming Respawn and Gamespew, and taking on a wide variety of freelance roles.