Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): social distancing in non-healthcare public services

Advice for organisations and their staff working in non-healthcare public services.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): social distancing in non-healthcare public services
Implementing social distancing in the workplace

Implementing social distancing in the workplace

Workers should not be attending work with symptoms of a fever (37.8C) or a new continuous cough

  • if a worker’s symptoms start at the workplace, they must return home without delay to start self-isolation; if well enough, they can drive their own vehicle, alternatively they should request a member of their household pick them up immediately. If neither is possible, the worker can take public or private transport home directly to start self-isolation. If using public transport, they should try to keep away from other people and catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue. If they don’t have any tissues available, they should cough and sneeze into the crook of the elbow.
  • social distancing of 2m (6 ft.) should be adhered to whenever feasible at the workplace, including at breaks
  • when it is not possible to implement the 2m social distancing guidance at the workplace, a brief risk assessment should be undertaken as the whether the task is essential and if so, the distance between workers can be reduced to no less than 1m, out with break times when the 2m social distance guidance applies

Social distancing within some workplace settings will be harder to maintain than others particularly for key worker roles where close contact or working in close proximity with other staff members is unavoidable. Staff should implement the measures outlined in the non-healthcare settings guidance, as much as is practically  possible and take appropriate precautions.

Those key workers not providing direct care to patients/residents (e.g. waste collectors, food production workers etc) should apply social distancing measures where they can. This includes making any adaptations to working arrangements if possible. If it’s not possible, the advice is to follow good hand and respiratory hygiene. If the worker or a member of their household is symptomatic, they should be self-isolating in line with guidance.

Actions to take if someone who may have COVID-19 becomes unwell whilst on site at your organisation

In preparation, make sure that all staff and individuals in your workplace/organisation know to inform a member of staff or responsible person if they feel unwell. The following guidance may need to be adapted to ensure a responsible adult is there to support the individual where required.

If they have mild symptoms they should go home as soon as they notice symptoms and self-isolate. Where possible they should minimise contact with others, e.g. use a private vehicle to go home. If it is not possible to use private transport, then they should be advised to return home quickly and directly. If using public transport, they should try to keep away from other people and catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue. If they don’t have any tissues available, they should cough and sneeze into the crook of the elbow.

If they are so unwell that they require an ambulance, phone 999 and let the call handler know you are concerned about COVID-19. Whilst you wait for advice or an ambulance to arrive, try to find somewhere safe for the unwell person to sit which is at least 2 metres away from other people.

If possible and it is safe to do so, find a room or area where they can be isolated behind a closed door, such as a staff office or meeting room. If it is possible to open a window, do so for ventilation. The individual should avoid touching people, surfaces and objects and be advised to cover their mouth and nose with a disposable tissue when they cough or sneeze, and then put the tissue in the bin. If no bin is available, put the tissue in a bag or pocket for disposing in a bin later. If you don’t have any tissues available, they should cough and sneeze into the crook of their elbow.

Use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Workers should wear personal protective equipment appropriate to their role and in line with usual practice in line with existing health and safety legislation. Additional PPE, including the use of face masks, are not required for those whose roles do not include providing health or social care to symptomatic individuals. There is no evidence of benefit to support the use of facemasks outside healthcare environments.

General principles to prevent spread of respiratory viruses including COVID-19 are explained in the COVID-19 Information and Guidance for Non-Healthcare Settings including targeted measures which can be taken at an organisational and individual level.


  • consider how you can change working practices to reduce risk of spread of infection
  • consider staggering start and finish times to reduce commutes at high volume travel times
  • consider how you need to support staff who are continuing to work as keyworkers
  • ensure that the facilities and working practices for staff allow for social distancing where possible
  • ensure that the staff attending work are aware of the most up to date COVID-19 information on the NHS inform website.

Implementing social distancing measures

Consider the following

  • consider how you can implement social distancing in your workplace
    • evaluate what additional support you need to implement social distancing measures in your workplace
    • ensure working practices are adapted to reflect the social distancing guidance where possible
    • ensure sufficient equipment is available to allow for reduced contact or sharing
    • discourage staff from gathering outside the workplace
    • discourage unnecessary gathering for example during break times or lunch provision
  • consider how staff travel and arrive at the workplace
    • reduce any unnecessary travel on coaches, buses or public transport
    • if staff are using public transport, they should social distance where possible and practice thorough handwashing on arrival at work and at home again following their return journey
    • ideally staff should travel in their own vehicle, where practically possible and avoid lift sharing
  • enhanced cleaning routines
    • increased frequency

What staff can do

  • do not attend work if they experience any symptoms of COVID-19 infection
  • leave work, as soon as possible, if they experience symptoms of COVID-19 during their time at work