Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): retail sector guidance

Guidance for the retail sector, including close contact services such as hairdressers, barbers and beauty salons, which covers procedures for staff and customer safety and an operations checklist.

These questions and answers provide further clarity to retail businesses / third sector organisations following publication of our sectoral guidance and the reopening of close contact services such as hairdressing, beauty and complementary therapies sectors.

It is not separate to our guidance, but designed to complement it and further the understanding of what businesses and third sector organisations need to consider and do to ensure they operate safely and within the law.

COVID-19 policy and guidance is based on emerging evidence and advice, and is therefore subject to change. We recommend that readers check for the latest relevant advice which, if it is dated later than this publication, may supersede this guidance.

As we move through Scotland’s route map, guidance is regularly reviewed and updated. A high level of caution and awareness is essential in order to avoid any set-backs. We do not want to keep any form of restrictions in place a moment longer than is necessary, but safety must come first. Businesses and the third sector organisations are therefore encouraged to maintain the excellent standard of compliance that has been demonstrated so far and to continue working with authorities to build on that progress.

We have prepared this information in cooperation with Environmental Health Officers and industry bodies. It will be updated as more information becomes available.

Remember – where appropriate continue to record client/customer contact details to support Test and Protect.

Face coverings


Q: Do my clients/customers need to wear a face covering?

A: Yes, under The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Scotland) Regulations 2020, regulation 13, any person including staff and clients/customers must wear a face covering in a premises used for the retail sale of goods or services – including shops and salons. Practitioners and clients/customers are encouraged to refer to current Scottish Government face-covering guidance for further information.

Q: Can I ask the client/customer to remove their face covering to perform a treatment on the face?

A: You cannot ask a client/customer to remove their face covering. No treatment should be performed that requires the face covering to be removed. This includes treatments that your service might routinely provide. Whilst beauty therapists are able to operate, certain therapies should not be performed if they break other guidance or regulations. This means treatments that require the removal of a face covering should not be offered or carried out, even if the client is exempt from wearing a face covering and the area is exposed. Current professional  advice is that, for safety reasons, close contact services should not be performed where face-coverings cannot be worn.

Q: Does my salon or treatment room count as a shop?

A: Yes, under The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 the requirement to wear a face covering applies to any building or room used for the retail sale or hire of goods or services.

Q: As a business owner/third sector organisation do I need to enforce this law on my clients/customers?

A: Where face coverings are required, people responsible for relevant premises should take reasonable steps to promote compliance with the law.

If necessary, the police have enforcement powers including issuing fines of £60 (halving to £30 if paid within 28 days) if members of the public do not comply with this law.

Q: Do I need to wear a face covering while cutting hair or treating clients/customers or does it only apply to my clients/customers?

A: Yes. The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Scotland) Regulations 2020, regulation 13 also applies to staff who must wear a face covering, subject to the exemptions. Further to this, your risk assessment under the Health and Safety at Work legislation must cover measures to ensure the aerosol/droplet transmission hazard is controlled. A face covering is a practical measure to control this risk. If an exemption applies and staff cannot wear a face covering the business / third sector organisation must implement another control which achieves the same effect. A face shield alone would not control the risk from transmission.

Q:  If staff wear a visor do I need a face covering too?

A: Face shields/visors do not constitute an adequate face covering for the purposes of meeting your obligation under the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Scotland) Regulations 2020. Face shields or visors may be used, but only if they are worn in addition to an adequate face covering, as the evidence shows that they do not provide adequate protection. However, if you are unable to wear a face covering due to an exemption, a face visor or face shield can be worn as it does provide a limited level of protection.

Q: Who is exempt from wearing a face covering in a retail setting e.g. a shop?

A:  Those who are exempt from wearing a face covering. These include:

  • a child who is under the age of 5
  • a constable acting in the course of their duty
  • an emergency responder (other than a constable) acting in their capacity as an emergency responder

Read the full list of exemptions

Q: If any individual has a medical condition, do they need to wear a face covering?

A: There are a number of instances where an individual may be unable to wear a face covering. The regulations state that in the following circumstances an individual does not need to wear a face covering;

  • to seek medical assistance
  • to provide care or assistance to a vulnerable person, including to provide emergency assistance
  • to avoid injury, illness or to escape a risk of harm
  • where the person cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering - 


  • because of any physical or mental illness or impairment or disability (within the meaning of section 6 of the Equality Act 2010),
  • without severe distress


  • to communicate with a person who has difficulties communicating (in relation to speech, language or otherwise)
  • to eat or drink where reasonably necessary
  • to take medication
  • to remove a face covering temporarily to comply with a request by a relevant person or another person acting in the course of their duties, and for the purposes of this sub-paragraph “relevant person” has the meaning given by regulation 7(12)

Physical distancing


Q: Is it possible for close contact service businesses / third sector organisations to operate with physical distancing in place? 

A:  Yes, under The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Additional Temporary Measures) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 shops (a building, room or other indoor establishment used for the retail sale or hire of goods or services) should operate with physical distancing of at least 2 metres “so far as reasonably practicable’. As close contact services cannot be provided from a 2 metre  distance, these services can continue to take place under the current regulations.

Where possible, 2 metres should be maintained in order to reduce the contact between individuals on site, for example, clients/customers should be at least two metres from one another when on the premises.

Q: Do I need screens between treatment areas/chairs?

A: 2 metre physical distancing is the legal minimum physical distance between persons without a partition. If 2m cannot be guaranteed then screens should be used to ensure physical distancing is maintained.

Q: Can I use all the chairs in my barber’s shop/salon if they are spaced at 1m from one another?

A: It is recommended that chairs be spaced at distances of at least two metres from one another. Where this cannot be achieved it may be possible, with additional controls, to have chairs located at a reduced distance. Remember there must be at least 2m physical distancing between persons. If this cannot be guaranteed screens/barriers should be put in place.

Q: Should I install screens between chairs?

A: Yes where 2m physical distancing cannot be guaranteed. Screens/barriers may provide a degree of comfort for clients/customers and act as an additional control, however, where clients/customers are less than 2 metres apart it is likely that they will still be considered a contact in the event that someone in the salon tests positive for Covid-19. In these instances it is likely that anyone within less than 2 metres of that individual will be required to self-isolate for a period of 14 days.  

Q: The only wash hand basin within the salon is in the staff toilet, do we need to install more?

A: Wash hand basins should be accessible to staff within the premises. The suitability will be dependent upon the location, the further away from the work environment the more unlikely they will be frequently used. However, within a hairdressing salon the backwash sinks could be utilised for hand washing.

Where hand washing facilities are located in other parts of the premises it is important to ensure that surfaces such as door handles are cleaned regularly to minimise contamination.

You should consider the provision of hand sanitising stations as an additional measure to supplement wash hand basins. Clients/customers should be asked to sanitise their hands on arrival.

Q: How do I increase the ventilation in my business?

A: Advice on ventilation is provided by HSE

Test and Protect


Q. Do I need to record customer details?

A. Yes – clients/customers details should be collected either through a booking system or manually on the day of the appointment.

The gathering of contact information in a secure and safe manner from clients/customers or visitors to premises, will assist NHS Scotland's Test and Protect service to identify and contact individuals who may have been exposed to the virus, and request them to take appropriate steps to prevent the potential onward spread of the virus. The data will also be helpful to the NHS and key local partners to manage and contain location-specific outbreaks.

Q: How long do I need to keep client/customer details on file for Test and Protect / contact tracing purposes?

A: Client/customer details should be retained for 21 days. Where details are to be retained electronically a business needs to be registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office. The ICO has produced specific guidance on this for businesses.

Q: What details should I be keeping for clients/customers?

A: As a minimum you should be retaining the clients/customer’s name and contact number or email address along with the name of the individual who provided treatment

Where possible, it is recommended that you note the treatment room or chair that the client/customer occupied whilst on the premises. The more specific information that you can record about a visit, the greater the benefit in the event that Test and Protect need to trace individuals. This could also protect the continuity of your business/third sector organisations by limiting the number of staff having to self-isolate.



Q: Do I need to have an appointment system in place?

A: The majority of close contact service businesses operated prior to lockdown with an appointment based system in place and should continue to do that. Where a business previously operated on a walk in basis (barber shops, nail bar, brow bar etc.) it is strongly recommended that consideration be given to the adoption of an appointment system. This will ensure that your client/customers will not be disappointed if they turn up and cannot be served or allowed into the premises. In the event that large numbers of people attend on the same day, you as the business are responsible for the queueing both inside and outside your premises (even if on the public footpath). Where a number of different businesses operate side by side this could become difficult to manage particularly when physical distancing requires to be maintained in the queue.

Q: Can clients/customers bring a chaperone / attendant / family member /children into the salon?

A: It is recommended that the number of people on the premises be kept to a minimum and that this should only be those who are there to receive treatment. The more people who are on site, the greater the number of contacts and the higher the risk. If the client/customer makes you aware in advance you can ensure arrangements are in place to maintain physical distancing between them and others within the salon i.e. move chairs to further increase the distance.

A chaperone or attendant can be either a family member, friend, carer, care worker, translator or interpreter that assists the client/customer regularly with any health or social/religious requirements.

Q: Can I allow clients/customers to use the toilet on the premises?

A: Toilets can continue to be used in a managed way and provided that hand contact surfaces are cleaned between uses. It is also recommended that, where possible, the frequency at which mechanical ventilation operates within toilet facilities be increased. It is important to remember that some clients/customers may require to use the facilities for medical reasons.

Q: Can I offer clients/customers a cup of tea whilst on the premises? 

A. No drinks should be offered to clients/customers when in the salon. Clients/customers may bring their own drinks with them if needed and may temporarily remove a face covering to drink from their own bottle, maintaining a 2 metre distance from others where possible.

Q: Can I still use the waiting room as normal for clients/customers that turn up early?

A: It is not recommended that the waiting room be used unless it is possible for clients/customers to maintain the required distance. It is strongly recommended that clients/customers be encouraged to arrive at the time of their appointment and no earlier. Where an early arrival occurs, clients/customers should be asked to wait in their car or outside if it is not possible for them to maintain the required distance within the premises.

Where a waiting room is used procedures will require to be in place for the regular cleaning of hand contact surfaces such as arms of chairs, tables etc.

Q: Do I have to remove magazines from the waiting room?

A: It is recommended that all unnecessary hand contact surfaces be removed from the premises and that clients/customers be advised to bring their own reading materials with them and take them with them when they leave.

Treatments (including the high risk zone)


Q: What is the ‘high risk zone’?

A: The ‘high risk zone’ is the term used to describe the face, mainly the mouth and nose.

Q: What are acceptable control measures to allow treatments to be carried out in the high risk zone?

A: Considerations could include; minimising the time being spent working on the high-risk zone and implementing additional control measures (working from the side of the face etc.) or procedures to mitigate the increased risk. Treatments should not be performed that require the client’s/customer’s face covering to be removed.

Where additional controls cannot be implemented, treatments should not be offered.

It should be noted that if, at a later date, the client/customer is identified as a case who was infectious at the time of treatment, the individual performing the treatment will be considered a close contact and required to self-isolate regardless of the control measures implemented.

Q: In relation to treatments involving the face (high risk zone) what is the definition of “prolonged period”?

A: Health Protection Scotland has produced contact tracing guidance that contains information on close contact in non-healthcare settings. This suggests that ‘prolonged periods’ could be:

  • No amount of time: if face-to-face contact is at  1 metre or less; (i.e. in effect this should not be permitted)
  • 1 minute: if contact is 1 metre or less, but does not involve face-to-face contact


  • 15 minutes: if contact is between 1 and 2 metres, whether or not contact is face-to-face

The limitation on the provision of any treatment is the ability to provide it from the side or behind the head. If you can provide the treatment from the side or from behind the head you should reduce the time in the high risk zone as much as possible. Treatments should not be provided in the area covered by a face covering – even if the client is exempt from wearing a face covering and that area is exposed.

Q: The guidance states that the therapist may work shoulder to shoulder with the client/customer. Can the client/customer turn to face therapist during treatment and vice versa?

A: Face to face treatment in any setting should not be carried out at present until government guidance changes.

Q: Is there a maximum time that a treatment can be carried out?

A: Services which require workers to be within the high risk zone of clients/customers, for the entire duration of the treatment or the majority of the time the service is being provided, should not be resumed until government guidance changes.

Q: What makeup applications can take place? 

A: All treatments currently permissible must be applied from the side or behind the head and the clients face covering should not be removed. Given these limitations it is expected that only eye make-up can be provided at this time.

Q: Can Semi Permanent Make Up (SPMU) treatments be performed?

A: SPMU must be performed from the side or behind. The client’s/customer’s face covering should not be removed, which may limit what SPMU treatments can be offered.

Q: Can I use a hairdryer?

A: Yes hairdryers can be used.

Q: Should I ask clients/customers to wash their hair before arrival at the salon?

A: Only if this is something you require before treatments normally.

Q: Can a facial steamer be used?

A: Treatments that  require the client/customer  to remove their face-covering should not be offered at this time.



Q: Do I need to replace all my reusable tools with disposable ones?

A: No. Where equipment can be adequately disinfected it does not need to be replaced. Depending upon the contact time of the chemicals used to disinfect, it may be necessary to have additional items available should they be required. Any equipment used must be fully disinfected between clients/customers.

Q: Do I need to use plastic aprons on my clients/customers?

A: Plastic aprons are one method of limiting the spread of COVID-19 through contact with potentially contaminated surfaces. Regular aprons, fabric face coverings, towels etc. can still be used, provided that they are changed between clients/customers and that they are washed at 60°C. Where reusable items are to be used it is essential to ensure that you have sufficient supply available.

If using disposable items it is recommended that these be double bagged prior to disposal, with particular care given to items that are used for treatments in the high risk zone.

Photography studios


Q. Do my clients/customers have to wear a face covering at all times?

A. If you are operating a shop or studio that is in a retail setting and is open to the public, a face covering has to be worn by clients/customers unless an exemption applies.

Q. I operate from a studio which clients/customers attend on an appointment – only basis. Do the close contact guidance requirements apply?

A. Yes, in as much as you should not offer any beauty or make up treatments that are not currently recommended when working in the high risk zone and that require the removal of a face covering. Photographs must be able to be taken by the photographer providing that there is a partition between the photographer and the customer/client, or a distance of at least two metres is maintained between the photographer and the customer/client.

Local restrictions


Q. Can I continue to operate/practice if there is a lockdown in my area?

A. That will depend on what type of restrictions have been put in place. You should refer to the latest information on our website





First published: 7 Oct 2020 Last updated: 15 Oct 2020 -