Questions and answers about businesses re-opening after coronavirus

Frequently asked questions about re-opening businesses after COVID-19

What happens if someone doesn’t wear a face covering when they come into my business?

Face coverings must be worn in enclosed public spaces in England. This includes shops, supermarkets, shopping centres, banks, building societies and post offices as well as train and bus stations and airports. They must be worn in a shop or cafe when buying food and drink to take away, but can be removed if you sit down to eat and drink. Some people are exempt from using them.

If a customer enters your business without a face covering, you may wish to engage with them, explain the rules about face coverings and encourage them to wearing face coverings. You may also wish to consider turning them away from your business if they refuse to wear a face covering. However, only the police can take enforcement action against someone who refuses to wear a face covering. Although, the police will only send officers if requested directly by your management and only in cases where police intervention is absolutely required. If you are trying to encourage your customers to use a face covering and you are threatened in any way, call the police immediately.

What powers does the council have if there is a local outbreak?

As a very last resort, the council now has powers close certain businesses and venues (for example shops, cafes, gyms, recreation centres, offices, labs, warehouses). We could also cancel organised events (for example sporting events, concerts, weddings, faith services) and close outdoor public areas (for example parks, playgrounds, outdoor swimming pools).

Will we carry out health and safety inspections to all business premises looking to re-open?

No. Health and safety inspections are carried out in accordance with a National Enforcement Code which require us to take a risk-based regulatory approach to ensure compliance with law, Currently only businesses which have high risk activities as determined by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are proactively inspected. However due to the current situation we may develop a risk based intervention plan targeting COVID-19.

Does a business need to carry out a risk assessment before re-opening?

Yes. It is a legal requirement that all businesses must carry out a general risk assessment which includes the assessment of COVID-19. Businesses with five or more employees must ensure this assessment is documented.

Can I obtain advice from the council on social distancing measures within my business premise?

We will provide basic health and safety advice, but if a business requires comprehensive advice they have the option to sign up to our consultancy service or register with the Prime Authority scheme. For more information and fees, please email: health&safety@centralbedfordshire.gov.uk

This consultancy service can be of great benefit for businesses as our officers are able to provide advice and assistance based on many years of experience alongside a very good understanding of the challenges businesses face. Our consultants work quickly and offer excellent value.

Is there any guidance for businesses re-opening?

While the government has announced certain businesses may re-open, no comprehensive supporting guidance has been published.

However, there is clear guidance from government on businesses and venues that must remain closed to members of the public.

I am looking to re- open my business in the coming weeks do I need to notify you?

No. However, if you are unsure about whether or not you are allowed to open if may be prudent check if you are on the list of restricted businesses. For more information, email: health&safety@centralbedfordshire.gov.uk

What are the regulations on social distancing and working safely?

Read the government's advice on GOV.UK for more information about this.

Do you plan to carry out unannounced visits to business premises after re-opening?

Possibly. However, a decision has not been made as yet to decide if and how COVID-19 risk in the workplace need to be targeted as part of our risk-based intervention plans. 

Where do I get advice on NHS test and trace?

Read the government's guidance on the NHS test and trace service for employers, businesses and workers.

Can I join a webinar to understand how as business we can become COVID-19 secure and thinking about returning to work?

Visit the CBI's website to watch its coronavirus webinar.

Register with SEMLEP's Growth Hub for upcoming webinars.

Will community safety carry out an assessment at my business premises to check if there is adequate parking for visitors before I re-open?

No assessments will be carried out at businesses to assess the level of parking available.

Businesses should carefully consider how they manage the parking available for their premises as they re-open and if you are reducing the amount of parking available, you need to think about whether this may impact on the highways e.g. causing queues on main roads, additional parking on streets etc. If you are concerned this might happen, please review your traffic plan to reduce this risk but if it still might cause a problem, contact our Traffic Management team to discuss further.

Can you provide advice on parking before I re-open my business?

Our Parking Enforcement team can be contacted for general queries if you have concerns ahead of re-opening. The team may not be able to answer all of your queries but we may be able to signpost you to people who can.

My business is in the visitor economy sector – Do I need to let you know about re-opening as it might impact the road traffic?

Yes please, we will want to be as aware as possible, to see what impact any business has on the public highway and how we may need to intervene.

How do I report someone parking on my road / causing obstruction to my access?

If a vehicle parks in front of a dropped kerb to your property, you can report this to our Parking Enforcement team on 0300 300 8005. If a civil enforcement officer is available, they will be tasked to attend and can issue a penalty charge notice to the vehicle obstructing the dropped kerb. Only the owner/s or occupiers can report this matter, so that we can confirm it is a valid obstruction rather than a vehicle being parked with permission.

If vehicles are parked on parking restrictions such as double yellow lines, our civil enforcement officers will issue penalty charge notices.

We do not have powers to remove vehicles if they are causing an obstruction. If vehicles are parked on kerbs and verges where there are no parking restrictions in place, we cannot take any enforcement action. 

How will you manage parking issues in public areas with regards to visitor attractions which are causing obstruction?

Our Parking Enforcement team can only enforce against vehicles when they are infringing parking restrictions. If obstructions are being caused where there are no restrictions, we will consider what alternative options may be available to help ease problems. This may include coning areas off or putting temporary measures in place.

If an obstruction on a road or footway is causing a serious safety concern to the public, the police can be contacted.

Can you place temporary road traffic orders to stop the public from obstructing the highways which is impacting my business?

Download temporary signage guidance for social distancing and reallocating road space from GOV.UK (PDF).

View government guidance on reallocating road space to maintain social distancing.

View government guidance on making and advertising permanent and experimental traffic regulation orders during COVID-19.

How do I add alcohol off-sales to my premises licence?

The Business and Planning Bill Act authorises off-sales for all premises that have on-sales (from Thursday, 23 July) without the need for a variation to the premises licence. There a few exceptions to this. If the addition of off-sales has been refused or removed from the licence in the last three years, you will need to apply for a variation to the premises licence. The authorisation is for a limited period until 30 September 2021. To add off-sales on a permanent basis, a full variation is required.

Read more about alcohol licensing.

Can I serve / sell alcohol in outside areas?

The Licensing Act Section 182 Guidance states the following:

Beer gardens or other outdoor spaces

8.35 Applicants will want to consider whether they might want to use a garden or other outdoor space as a location from which alcohol will be consumed. The sale of alcohol is to be treated as taking place where the alcohol is appropriated to the contract. In scenarios where drink orders are taken by a member of staff in the garden or outdoor space and the member of staff then collects the drinks from the licensed premises and returns to deliver them to the customer this would be treated as an off-sale and any conditions that relate to off-sales would apply.

8.36 In such cases it will be not necessary to include the garden or other outdoor space on the plan as part of the area covered by the premises licence. However, it will be necessary for the applicant to include the garden or other outdoor space on the plan as part of the area covered by the premises licence if the intention is to provide a service whereby drinks are available for sale and consumption directly from that area (i.e. the provision of on-sales). This would apply in the case of an outdoor bar or a service whereby a member of staff who is in the garden or outdoor space carries with them drinks that are available for sale (without the need for the staff member to return to the licensed premises to collect them).

8.37 If the beer garden or other outdoor area is to be used for the consumption of off-sales only, there is no requirement to show it on the plan of the premises, but the prescribed application form requires the applicant to provide a description of where the place is and its proximity to the premises.

Can I fit a screen in my hackney carriage / private hire vehicle?

Yes, subject to approval by us. Please email details of the screen you would like to install to licensing@centralbedfordshire.gov.uk.

Do passengers have to wear face coverings whilst travelling in private hire vehicles or hackney carriages (taxis)?

No. Please read the government's guidance for transport operators for more details.