Government changes affect service and hospitality sectors

Matthew Potter

On 22 September 2020 the Prime Minister announced additional restrictions in response to increasing rates of infection in the Covid-19 pandemic.


One of the major changes is the requirement for those working in retail or the food and hospitality sectors to wear a mask whilst working in or serving at their place of work. To date they have been exempt from wearing them whilst at work.

From 24 September 2020 staff employed in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors will be required to wear a face mask or visor in areas which are open to the public. The following businesses are included:

  • shops
  • enclosed shopping centres
  • restaurants and bars
  • banks and building societies
  • hotels
  • post offices
  • community centres
  • cinemas
  • museums and galleries
  • public libraries
  • casinos
  • theatres

Penalties in England for those not wearing a mask will increase to £200 for the first offence (reduced to £100 if paid within 14 days). For repeat offenders, a maximum fine is in place of £6,400. The fine will be payable by the employee (not the employer). However, while the employer will not face enforcement for breach of the new legislation relating specifically to face coverings, employers will need to ensure their employees follow the rules. If they don’t, employers could face enforcement action when the Covid-secure guidelines become a legal requirement (expected on 28 September) or alternatively for breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

Employers must therefore now supply a mask or visor where it is a requirement of the role, and ensure that employees have been informed of the requirement to wear it. Employers may need to amend or implement new uniform policies or a health and safety policy, bringing attention to the requirement to wear a mask and putting employees on notice that failure to do so may be considered a disciplinary offence.

There are a limited number of reasonable excuses for which a mask may not be worn, including due to an employee’s disability. Employers need to ensure that they are clear when an exemption applies to an employee and ensure that managers and supervisors are trained and kept well informed as to when those exemptions might apply. Employers should also promote the wearing of lanyards for those employees who are exempt from wearing face coverings. The government does provide a sample notice to assist

Employers will also need to review their existing Covid risk assessments, and update them where necessary to reflect the new legal requirements.


From 24 September 2020 pubs, bars and restaurants will be restricted to table service. All hospitality venues will be required to close at 10pm- last orders must therefore happen sooner than that.

Businesses must consider the practical implications of this change, ensuring that sufficient staff are now in place to cater for the additional requirements of table service, without breaching Covid regulations or requirements. Efforts should also be made to ensure that staff do not break or bend the rules- especially for regulars or friends.

Where table service was not previously provided, business must consider whether the physical layout of the venue is sufficient to support the change, and implement steps to ensure any adjustment meets relevant Covid-secure guidelines. If not, they could be in breach of health and safety legislation and exposed to large fines once the Covid-secure guidelines become law. Businesses should also be aware that employees who reasonably believe they are at serious and imminent risk of danger have a right leave the workplace (and not return whilst the danger persists).

The situation is subject to change and developing government guidance.

If you require any further assistance or have questions please do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of the team.

Image: Matthew Potter

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