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.

Training and compliance

As a minimum we expect:

  • training around processes and working environment expectations should be essential for all staff before restarting work
  • companies to establish measures, agreed with employees, to monitor compliance with relevant regulations and processes put in place to enable a safe return to production

Workforce training

Every workplace should look and feel substantially different for employees. Physical distancing and enhanced hygiene will change how workplaces operate. Training will therefore be essential to build a common understanding of requirements within the new working norm and instil confidence that changes put in place will contribute to a safe working environment. Issues such as ensuring staff are aware than some customers will have unseen disabilities and may not have childcare provision will be important in ensuring fair treatment of customers in these difficult circumstances.

Training methods will need to be considered to enable effective delivery of relevant overarching and company specific measures and expectations of staff whilst at work in a way which maintains physical distancing in line with the  business and physical distancing guidance which still applies. That guidance advises all business premises, sites and attractions not required by law to close should close unless:

  • essential to the health and welfare of the country during this crisis (defined as critical national infrastructure) or
  • supporting (or being repurposed to support) essential services or
  • wider public health, health and safety or other considerations apply and require a facility or service to continue to operate  or a specific period of time for a safe shutdown process to be completed and
  • apart from in exceptional circumstances critical to lives and safety, capable of working in a way which is fully consistent with established physical distancing advice

It is anticipated visual aids will be required as part of the training and as part of ongoing guidance and communications with staff to reinforce individual responsibilities in a new normal working environment.

As training upon, or before, a return to work onsite is vital for all staff some companies have initiated an induction process for everyone covering their new, enhanced hygiene and physical distancing measures. This induction process can help demonstrate companies are taking the COVID-19 risks seriously and have adapted their working environment accordingly, therefore building confidence amongst the workforce that they are returning to safe workplace while also being clear on individual employee responsibilities. 

So, training is essential, given the new operational context, as a means to deliver assurance and compliance, and as part of building confidence in the workplace that safety is paramount. Employers should also put in place, with employee and/or trade union support, robust local arrangements to monitor compliance with new operational arrangements. Remedial actions should flow from that monitoring, and be augmented by advice, guidance and support from external enforcement authorities.


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. HSE can and will use the Health and Safety Work Act to ensure physical distancing in the workplace in relation to workers.

Where both regulators’ identifies 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 control of workplace risks including the provision of specific advice to employers through to issuing enforcement notices. These actions will be taken under existing health and safety law (HSWA). A framework agreement between Police Scotland and local authorities supports the referral of complaints about lack of reasonable physical distancing at work to the relevant local authority. Local authorities will ensure that those complaints relevant to HSE are referred quickly through the normal route

For example, this would cover employers not taking appropriate action to physically distance or to ensure workers in the shielded category can follow the NHS advice to self-isolate for the period specified. The actions enforcement agencies can take include the provision of specific advice to employers through to issuing enforcement notices to help secure improvements or stop certain activities until issues are resolved, or in more extreme cases prosecution.

Employers and employees should always work together to resolve issues. If concerns still cannot be resolved, employees can raise them with HSE or your relevant local authority. A risk assessment or adoption of mitigation measures should not be a one off exercise, rather part of a regular and ongoing dialogue and feedback loop between employers and trade unions or employee representatives to identify what measures are working, where refinements are possible and any gaps remaining. Reviews of measures and risks should be frequent, with daily assessments of progress initially not unusual. The ongoing engagement between business and trade unions will enable adjustments to measures to create a safe working environment to be made quickly and smoothly at the relevant stage.     

Returning workers may have some level of apprehension about how safe they may be and they will require reassurance and demonstration that measures have been put in place to ensure safety. Employers should ensure that communication with staff on COVID-19 risks and measures for preventing transmission are refreshed to take account of any updates to guidance and ensure levels of knowledge and understanding are maintained and that messages are not becoming stale. Updates should be provided at team meetings (weekly is suggested), and reinforced through all available channels for staff communications (e.g. TV screens/digital signage, intranet and newsletters).

Language is a critical factor when communicating with employees the importance of COVID-19 controls. It is important to ensure language is not a barrier. Simple, clear messaging should be used to explain guidelines using images and clear language, with consideration of groups for which English may not be their first language and those with protected characteristics such as visual impairments. Posters, leaflets and other materials are available online which can be used to reinforce these messages throughout the workplace. NHS Inform also provides general advice on COVID-19 in a range of translated formats which will help to support employees for whom English is not their first language.

Last updated: 9 July 2020



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