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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 information is currently under review and may change. You should revisit this page regularly to keep up-to-date with the latest guidance.

This guidance is for the performing arts and venues sector both professional and non-professional. It comes into effect immediately and extends until further notice. Guidance will be reviewed on a regular basis. It will be updated as required in consultation with sector leaders and unions and based on the developing epidemiology and the emerging evidence base. It should be applied within the context of the level which is current within your local authority area (see Strategic Framework and Levels). Please ensure you use the latest version of this guidance available online and read the section on Temporary Lockdown from 5 January 2021 in Where we are now . 

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 guidance for training, rehearsal, recording, broadcast, pre-production, creative-learning related activities and performances without an audience, and to pursue these activities in theatres and concert halls with an audience if they are in a local authority area assigned a level that permits this. Those planning an outdoor performance should also read the events guidance to determine whether their planned event is currently permitted and, if so, follow both that guidance and this.

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, particularly in relation to socialising rules in their local authority area, according to its level on the strategic framework. Non-professionals who are participating in an organised outdoor activity managed by an organisation - including a business, charity or club - can meet outdoors. Organisers have a duty to ensure compliance with physical distancing, hygiene measures and this and other relevant guidance, including events guidance, and to undertake the same risk assessment processes as referenced in this guidance for  professional organisations, including member/participant representatives in those processes. From 2 November, such organised outdoor activity is permitted in local authority areas in levels 0 - 1. Please see section on non-professionals gathering for performing arts activities for more information and note that we are considering revised guidance for non-professionals participating in performing arts activity which will be published here in due course.

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.

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. 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. Discussions on restricted capacity numbers for venues permitted to reopen should take place between the local authority and venue. Matters such as ventilation system, pinch points, transport, performance type, local circumstances and length of performance should be taken into account to determine the appropriate capacity number for the venue which might be below the upper limit. See Strategic Framework and Levels section at the beginning of this document for information on capacity limits.

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.

Page last updated: 7 January 2021

First published: 10 Nov 2020 Last updated: 8 Jan 2021 -