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.

Close contact services

Examples of close contact services are:

  • hairdressing and barber services
  • beauty and nail services (including make-up services)
  • hair removal services
  • tattoo, piercing and body modification services
  • fashion design, dress-fitting and tailoring services
  • indoor portrait photography and art services
  • massage therapies
  • complementary and alternative medicine services requiring physical contact or close physical proximity between persons, but not osteopathy and chiropractic services
  • spa and wellness services
  • other services or procedures which require physical contact or close physical proximity between a provider and a customer and are not ancillary to medical, health, or social care services

On 23 October we published Scotland’s Strategic Framework. This Framework sets out our strategic approach to suppress the virus to the lowest possible level and keep it there, while we strive to return to a more normal life for as many people as possible.

This approach to outbreak management based on five levels of protection consisting of four levels above the Route Map Phase 3 baseline (or 'Level 0').

The Strategic Framework confirms which services are and are not permitted to operate in each of the levels; the present Strategic Framework level for your locality will determine whether or not close contact services are permitted to operate, while this guidance will set out information on how close contact services can operate safely when they are permitted. More information on each of the levels and how this will affect retail including close contact services is in the where we are now section of the retail guidance.

Level 0 (baseline) and Level 1

All retail businesses and close contact services, including mobile services will be able to operate in these levels.

Levels 2-3

Retail businesses will be able to operate in Levels 2 and 3, as will close contact services that are delivered from a salon, shop or other static site, such as a home treatment room.

Mobile hairdressing and barbering can also continue in Levels 2 and 3.

All other mobile close contact services will not be able to operate in Levels 2 or 3.

Strict compliance with existing mitigation practices will be necessary for close contact services operating in Level 3, and additional protective measures to further inhibit the virus and enhance the safety of practitioners and customers/clients should be considered. Types of additional protective measures can include; increased physical distancing; asking clients to attend appointments alone; eliminating waiting areas, and; eliminating conditions which might cause people to raise their voices like hairdryers and background music.

Level 4

Essential retail will be able to remain open in Level 4.

Click and collect services and outdoor retail will also be able to operate, as will on-line retail.

All close contact services – static or mobile – will be closed. 

To suppress the spread of COVID-19 it is essential that, with limited exceptions, there is no travel to or from areas where higher numbers of people may be carrying the virus. If people do not abide by the guidance on travel and transport there is a risk that the virus will spread to areas where it is less common and we may have to return to national restrictions.

For close contact services, customer and practitioners should refer to their local Strategic Framework level and associated guidance to understand whether they should seek or provide services. A person who provides a close contact service must not provide that service in a level 4 area. If a customer and practitioner are located in areas at different levels, they should default to whichever level is highest, for example:

  • customers unable to obtain services in their area because they are not permitted at the current level should not travel to areas in lower levels to obtain those services
  • practitioners unable to provide services in their area because they are not permitted at the current level should not travel to areas in lower levels to provide those services
  • neither customers nor practitioners should travel into areas at higher levels to seek or provide services

Business owners and staff should also follow the principles in the wider retail guidance, including guidance relating to the high risk zone and good practice, which may restrict the services that can be offered. NHS inform general advice is a useful source of information for clients who might be at highest risk of COVID-19.

Test and Protect

Test and Protect is a key point for service or treatment providers to be aware of, in particular the additional guidance on retaining customer/client details for 21 days with a view to sharing their contact information with Test and Protect Teams if required. Providers should discuss this with clients so that they agree to have their contact details used for this purpose.

Services offered in the ‘high risk zone’

The ‘high risk zone’ is defined as ‘the area in front of the face where splashes and droplets from the nose and mouth may be present, which can pose a hazard’. If treatments in the high risk zone cannot be carried out without the ability to be provided from the side of the face or behind the head and therefore require prolonged periods in the highest risk zone then they should not be offered.

Good practice

Consideration should be given to what is a safe practice. Practitioners should assess their practice for all therapy treatments they deliver to ensure they only provide safe services. Practitioners should seek to avoid skin-to-skin contact with colleagues and clients if it is not crucial for the treatment. Gloves provide a barrier where there is anticipated contact with blood or body fluids and should continue to be used for any treatments where this is a risk. However over-use of gloves leads to contamination of both the user’s gloves and the surrounding environment. Frequent hand decontamination is very important. Alcohol-based hand rub should be used regularly where hand washing cannot occur.

Good practice involves the practitioner continually moving from side to side or from the back avoiding the high-risk zone, inactive periods, and keeping the activity time involved as short as possible.

Good hygiene principles for non-healthcare settings

Hand hygiene

  • COVID-19 is spread when respiratory secretions from an infected person enters the mouth, nose or eyes of another.  One way in which this can happen is by touching your eyes, nose or mouth with contaminated hands. It is therefore important to avoid touching the face with unwashed hands
  • perform hand hygiene regularly and especially before and after eating
  • promote good hand hygiene for all staff/visitors/service users
  • ensure there are sufficient hand washing facilities and provision of alcohol based hand rub (ABHR) at key areas such as entry and exit points

Coughs and sneezes

  • catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue and dispose of any tissues into a bin and wash hands immediately
  • if an individual does not have tissues to hand, they should catch coughs and sneezes in the crook of their elbow


  • ensure regular detergent cleaning schedules and procedures are in place using a product which is active against bacteria and viruses
  • ensure regular (at least twice daily) cleaning of commonly touched objects and surfaces (telephones, keyboards, door handles, desks, counter tops etc.). Examples should apply to the relevant setting.

Face coverings

  • face coverings are now mandatory for retail, including retail services. Read more about face coverings
  • it is important to note the difference between face masks and face coverings. Face masks are surgical or medical grade masks that are used in health and social care situations. Face coverings are made from cloth or other textiles that cover the mouth and nose, and through which you can breathe (e.g. a scarf). The use of face masks is not currently recommended for the general population. We have issued guidance on the personal use of face coverings

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

  • PPE protects the user against health or safety risks at work. It can include items such as safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, high-visibility clothing, safety footwear and safety harnesses. Occupations should continue to use any PPE required as per local policies (business as usual) and there are no requirements for additional PPE to be worn.

We have developed a checklist that should be considered by close contact business owners as part of a risk assessment.  

Mobile close contact services

Mobile close contact services describe services where a practitioner visits their customers/clients to provide services, rather than customers/clients visiting them at a fixed premises which the practitioners owns, rents or otherwise operates from. They include services that are provided in the home of a client/customer, or other locations where such services are requested, for example wedding venues or hotel rooms.

From 2 November, mobile versions of close contact services are permitted to operate in Levels 0 and 1. Mobile hairdressing and barbering services only can continue to operate in Levels 2 and 3.

As mobile close contact service practitioners may visit multiple clients/customers each day, it is particularly important that every effort is taken to reduce the risk of transmission from one location to another location.

There are different risks associated with working in customers/clients’ homes and in multiple locations and so, as well as understanding the broader close contact services guidance as set out above, practitioners should follow the additional advice for delivery of mobile services.

  • prior to visiting a location for work, mobile practitioners should clearly establish their expectations with the customer/client regarding the workspace, the services to be delivered, and who will be present during the services
  • practitioners should consider remote video consultations in advance of treatments as a way to reduce the time spent with the client/customer
  • mobile practitioners should only meet the client/customer they will be working with; however a client/customer’s carer/chaperone/attendant can be present if appropriate, and if physical distancing is maintained from the practitioner
  • practitioners should not work in locations where a client/customer or a member of their household is isolating or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19
    • a new continuous cough
    • fever/high temperature
    • loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste
  • practitioners should not continue to work if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, or have been told to self-isolate
  • workspaces should be limited to a single well-ventilated room where possible with any non-essential items removed. The area should be tidy and clean for arrival, with sufficient space for the service to be provided safely. Ventilation can be provided through an open window.
  • practitioners should limit their movement in the location to their designated treatment area if possible, and should avoid visiting the bathroom unless absolutely necessary
  • practitioners should decline any offer of refreshment but can bring their own bottled water with them
  • additional consideration should be given to cleaning and industry good practice. Hand hygiene remains vital and should be followed by both the mobile practitioner and client/customer.  
  • ensure that both practitioners and clients/customers wash their hands regularly especially in relation to treatments where gloves cannot be worn for example aromatherapy and massage. Alcohol Based Hand Rub (60% alcohol minimum) should be used regularly where hand washing cannot occur.
  • practitioners should implement risk reduction controls to minimise hazards and risks. While in the premises, practitioners should as far as possible avoid touching surfaces or items that do not belong to them.
  • workspace surfaces should be thoroughly cleaned before and after a service has taken place
  • sheets or coverings that can be disposed of, or safely packaged and washed after use provide useful protection between the practitioner and surfaces
  • materials and equipment used to provide the service must be brought by the practitioner and appropriately cleaned (and where appropriate, disposed of) before and after use, with linens and towels washed at 60 °C as a minimum
  • equipment that belongs to the client/customer should not be used
  • utensils and equipment should be disinfected at the location when preparing for the close contact service and again before leaving. 
  • if a service is being provided to more than one customer/client at the same location, utensils and equipment should be disinfected or substituted between customers/clients
  • single use items may be preferable where practical
  • after the treatment or service is completed, items that are to be removed from the premises for cleaning should be double-bagged or placed in a suitably sealed container for transport and, if appropriate, disposal
  • linens and towels should be emptied and washed as soon as possible and all contact points cleaned thoroughly
  • all equipment that a practitioner takes from their own premises should be cleaned regularly, irrespective of whether it has been used or not

Face coverings are a legal requirement wherever a good or service is being sold or hired; they should be kept on throughout the treatment or service and not removed for, or during the treatment. Services that require a face covering to be removed should not be offered or performed. More information can be found in close contact services: questions and answers.

Risk assessment

Mobile close contact service practitioners should assess the risk to themselves and to others presented by the services or treatments provided, and put in place measures to minimise the risk of transmission of COVID-19. Practitioners can find more information on risk assessments when working in other people’s homes on the Healthy Working Lives website. You should also refer to the checklist for close contact service business owners as part of a risk assessment.


Last updated: 8 November 2020



First published: 9 Dec 2020 Last updated: 19 Jan 2021 -