BLM's Head of Employment Law, London Partner Julian Cox on the government's new 1 metre+ social distancing measures
“There’s been rumblings of shortened social distancing for some time now, especially as many of our European counterparts enforce a 1.5 metre rule and the WHO itself recommends at least 1 metre. Hospitality businesses have been very vocal that a 2 metre distance not only isn’t enforceable, but will also have a huge impact on the feasibility of their businesses moving forward. However, it’s fair to say that this particular rule is unlikely to be heavily policed and will instead depend on the goodwill of operators and customers, which could be somewhat compromised with businesses keen to make up for lost time.
“With a 4th July reopening confirmed today, timed to the reduction to ‘1 metre+’, where 2 metres is not possible, operators will have to demonstrate that keeping a distance of at least 1 metre is possible on their premises, whether by reducing the number of covers or spacing seats and tables further apart. The government has promised more detailed ‘COVID secure’ guidance, though with under 2 weeks to go, it’s probably most prudent to begin a full 360 degrees risk assessment of premises now, if not already under consideration.
“The move to 1 metre+ and the reopening of bars and restaurants symbolises the government’s attempt to return to some normality, but also wind down its current level of support. Employers will no doubt be considering the contributions they have to make towards furlough payments which will begin in August, before the scheme closes in November. So whilst a reopening of the sector will go some way to helping businesses recover, there are still months of lost trade and customer wariness to contend with. While the country continues to recover from COVID-19 we won’t see the sector bounce back to normality immediately and revenue will remain relatively low in comparison to pre-COVID, so it’s very likely we’ll still see large-scale redundancies coming down the line, even for those who reopen the doors next week.”
Disclaimer: This document does not present a complete or comprehensive statement of the law, nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight issues that may be of interest to customers of BLM. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in any particular case.