Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for the performing arts and venues sector

Guidance for the performing arts and venues sector on safe re-opening during the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for the performing arts and venues sector


This guidance is for the performing arts and venues sector both professional and non-professional. It comes into effect immediately (21 August 2020) - and extends until further notice. Guidance will be reviewed on a regular basis in line with the regular three weekly review of lockdown requirements. It will be updated as required in consultation with sector leaders and unions and based on the developing epidemiology and the emerging evidence base. Please ensure you use the latest version available online. 

The Scottish Government is keen to build confidence and create the right environment for supporting safer work as we continue to live with COVID-19.

We have worked with organisations, industry bodies and trade unions from the performing arts and venues sector to ensure that this guidance is evidence-based, fair and ethical, clear and realistic. We welcome the work that organisations have already done to plan ahead for safe workplaces and venues aimed at ensuring the safety of staff, freelance workers and the public is at the centre of operational plans for re-opening of the sector. As each workplace is different it is for individual businesses to work with trade union or workforce representatives to determine how best to apply this guidance in their circumstances.

Professionals working in the performing arts and those in formal training for associated professional careers, such as in Further and Higher Education, can use this specific guidance for training, rehearsal, recording, broadcast, pre-production, creative-learning related activities and performances without an audience now, and can pursue these activities in theatres and concert halls from Monday 24 AugustHowever, please note that at the time of publication, performing arts venues cannot open to the public for live performances with an audience. Those planning an outdoor performance should also read and follow the events guidance to determine whether their planned event is currently permitted.

Non-professionals (meaning those participating in performing arts other than for work purposes), or groups which include non-professionals, may refer to this guidance for their activities, but in order to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus must at all times do so in line with government legislation and the Staying safe and protecting others guidance, particularly in relation to the number of individuals or households meeting together.

Non-professionals who are participating in an organised outdoor activity managed by an organisation - including a business, charity or club - can, from 24 August, meet outdoors. Organisers have a duty to ensure compliance with physical distancing, hygiene measures and this and other relevant guidance, including events guidanceand to undertake the same risk assessment processes as referenced in this guidance for  professional organisations, including member/participant representatives in those processes.

Please note, as announced by the First Minister on 7 October 2020, there will be additional national and local measures in place from 10 October to 06:00 on 26 October 2020 inclusive to reduce opportunities for the virus to spread. During this period, such organised outdoor activity managed by an organisation is not permitted for performing arts activities in the central belt area. The central belt is defined as the areas covered by:

    • Ayrshire & Arran Health Board, comprising East, North, and South Ayrshire;
    • Forth Valley Health Board, comprising Clackmannanshire, Falkirk, and Stirling;
    • Greater Glasgow & Clyde Health Board, comprising Glasgow City, East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Inverclyde, Renfrewshire, and West Dunbartonshire;
    • Lanarkshire Health Board, comprising North and South Lanarkshire; and
    • Lothian Health Board, comprising the City of Edinburgh, East Lothian, Midlothian, and West Lothian.

We recognise that economic viability will be a factor in the decision to re-open for many organisations while physical distancing is in place. However, it is important that this guidance is published for those organisations that are considering activities which are viable, and for all performing arts organisations and venues to be able to plan for re-opening to the public in good time. As stated above, this guidance will be reviewed on a regular basis in line with the regular three weekly review of lockdown requirements.

To help you decide what actions to take, you need to carry out appropriate COVID-19 risk assessments, just as you would for other health and safety related hazards. These risk assessments should be developed where possible together with union health and safety representatives. For workplaces without union representation, union health and safety representatives will be available upon request to support the development of workplace risk assessments. For more information please contact The key areas which you need to consider are outlined in each of the sections of this document.

This guide is underpinned by a spirit of collaborative working between organisations and their workforce. Throughout, the terms organisations and trade union or workforce representatives are used in that context, recognising that organisations have a legal responsibility to maintain workplace health and safety and must consult with the health and safety representative selected by a recognised trade union or, if there is not one, a representative chosen by workers. Organisations cannot decide who the workforce representative will be.

This document is one of a set of documents about how to work safely in different types of workplace. This guidance is for use by the performing arts and venues sector in Scotland. It sets out our expectations on what businesses and organisations of all sizes and sub-sectors need to consider as part of their planning for restart. The guidance emphasises in particular the importance of undertaking a robust and ongoing risk based assessment with full input from trade union or workforce representatives, and to keep all risk mitigation measures under regular review so that workplaces continue to feel, and be, safe.

This guidance is based on the principles set out in Coronavirus (COVID-19): framework for decision making and our long established commitment to fair work. As Scotland continues to ease lockdown restrictions, organisations including the Institute of Directors (IoD), SCDI, STUC, COSLA and SCVO have signed a fair work statement underlining the collaborative approach needed between employers, unions and workers to ensure workplaces can operate safely.

Engagement with your local authority will be of vital importance to enabling your activity to restart. Each local authority may have different structures and requirements, but early discussion with Licensing, Public Safety, Environmental Health and Culture teams is advised to acquire relevant permissions and understanding of local priorities.

The remainder of this guidance sets out our minimum expectations across key areas organisations should consider as part of their planning for a restart and ongoing production while minimising the transmission of the virus:

  • assessing risk - involving the workforce in a risk-based approach to a safer workplace
  • workforce planning - supporting those who should come to work, and those who should not
  • operational guide - changing the workplace environment to protect your workforce, those working temporarily in a venue (such as touring performing organisations), and public areas to protect the public
  • training and compliance

The co-regulators for health and safety at work, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Local Authority Environmental Health services, are constantly applying their expertise to ensure people at work are protected, utilising the powers at their disposal under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

HSE is treating COVID-19 as a workplace health issue with regard to the protection of workers from infection. Both regulators can and will use the Health and Safety Work Act to ensure physical distancing in the workplace in relation to workers.

Where regulators identify employers who are not taking action to comply with the relevant public health guidance to control COVID-19 health risks to workers, both regulators will consider a range of actions to improve the control of workplace risks including provision of specific advice to employers through to issuing enforcement notices. These actions will be taken under existing health and safety law (HSWA).

This guidance has been published now to give employers and workers the time they need to plan and prepare.

This is provided as guidance only and does not amount to legal advice. Organisations may wish to seek their own advice to ensure compliance with all legal requirements.

Separate guidance has also been published for many other sectors including tourism and hospitality; retail; creative studios and shared workspaces; transport; museums, galleries and heritage attractions; sport and leisure facilities and events. Please refer to this for related business interests.

First published: 9 Oct 2020 Last updated: 16 Oct 2020 -