Gov Reopening Guidance

How should operators manage staff in post-lockdown pubs?

By Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

Staff precautions: what does Government guidance for post-lockdown pubs say about staffing reopened venues?
Staff precautions: what does Government guidance for post-lockdown pubs say about staffing reopened venues?

Related tags Health and safety Coronavirus

What does the Government's guidance for the post-lockdown hospitality sector say about which staff should return to pubs and bars from 4 July and how operators should manage their socially distanced shifts?

The Government's 43-page document​, Keeping workers and customers safe during Covid-19 in restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaways services​, was published after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement on 23 June that pubs would be allowed to reopen in July and details how pubs and bars​ should safely resume trading. 

Prepared by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) with input from businesses, unions, industry bodies and in consultation with Public Health England and the Health and Safety Executive, the document is expected to be updated over time.

However, here are some of the key measures from the Government's guidance on who should return to work, on-site social distancing for staff and workforce management.

Who should go to work? 

Given working from home isn’t a realistic option for pub and bar staff, Government guidance states that employers in the hospitality sector should consider which staff members are essential before drawing up staff rotas and resuming trade.

Guidance also suggests that while operators should only recall the minimum number of staff members needed for a site to operate safely and effectively they should stay in touch with off-site staff regarding working arrangements including welfare, mental and physical health and personal security.

Pub and bar operators will also need to consider whether or not they have enough appropriately trained staff to keep those on site safe - for example, those dedicated to managing social distancing or security.

Ultimately, risk assessments will need to be conducted by operators with relevant actions taken to manage the risk of transmission.

Managing shift patterns 

The Government’s guidance also suggests that staff teams or shift groups should be fixed so that where contact is unavoidable it happens between the same people.

It also recommends one-way systems, staggered shifts and assigned staff mealtimes as possible ways of minimising the risk of transmission between staff members.

The Government also states that operators should assist the Test and Trace service by keeping a 21-day record of staff shift patterns and assist NHS Test and Trace with requests for that data if needed to help contain Covid-19 clusters or outbreaks.

Protecting vulnerable staff members

Clinically vulnerable individuals (see box out) have been advised to take extra care in observing social distancing and should be helped to work from home, either in their current role or in an alternative role.

However, if they cannot work from home, its been advised that clinically vulnerable individuals should be offered the option of the safest available on-site roles, enabling them to maintain social distancing guidelines - specified as two-metres, or one-metre with risk mitigation where two-metres is not viable, in the Government's guidance. 

Additionally, the Government states that hospitality employers have particular responsibilities towards disabled workers as well as both new and expectant mothers. Therefore, reasonable adjustments to avoid disabled workers being put at a disadvantage, and assessing the health and safety risks for new or expectant mothers, should be made.

Who qualifies as clinically vulnerable?

Clinically vulnerable people are those who are either aged 70 or older - regardless of medical conditions – or are under 70 but with any of the underlying health conditions listed below:

  • Chronic (long-term) mild to moderate respiratory diseases, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema or bronchitis
  • Chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
  • Chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, or cerebral palsy
  • Diabetes
  • A weakened immune system as the result of certain conditions or medicines they are taking, such as steroid tablets
  • Are seriously overweight with a body mass index of 40 or above
  • Pregnant women

Social distancing for workers

Government guidance states that hospitality workers must maintain social distancing – which it defines as two-metres, or one-metre with risk mitigation where one-metre is not viable – wherever possible.  

Where social distancing cannot be maintained in full or in relation to a particular activity, pub and bar operators should consider whether or not said activity needs to continue for the business to operate.

If unavoidable, pub and bar staff should take all the mitigating actions possible (see box out) to reduce the risk of transmission during particular tasks.

The guidance also states that social distancing applies to all parts of a hospitality business, not just the place where people spend most of their time. Therefore, staff should be reminded to keep their distance in entrances and exits, break rooms, canteens and similar settings. 

Mitigating actions for when social distancing isn’t possible

  • Increasing the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning
  • Keeping non-socially distanced activity time as short as possible
  • Using screens or barriers to separate workers both from each other and customers
  • Using back-to-back or side-to-side working - rather than face-to-face - whenever possible
  • Reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using fixed teams

Coming to and from work

Pub and bar operators are advised to stagger arrival and departure times for staff in a bid to reduce crowding and in doing so consider the impact on those with protected characteristics.

In order to reduce congestion, pub and bar operators should, where possible, have multiple entry points to a venue, with those featuring more than one door advised to consider having one for entering the building and one for exiting.

What’s more, where possible operators should provide additional parking or facilities such as bike- racks to help people walk, run, or cycle to work where possible. While staff should try avoid using public transport, if doing so is unavoidable they should be reminded to wear a mandatory face covering.

Handwashing facilities, or hand sanitiser stations, should also be placed at staff entry and exit points.

Staff uniforms

Where possible, Government guidance advises pub and bar operators to ask staff to change into work uniforms on site using changing areas where social distancing and hygiene guidelines can be met, as well as providing storage for clothes and bags. 

What’s more, guidelines state that operators should request workers regularly wash uniforms at home, or where possible wash uniforms on site.

Moving around venues

Guidance advises pub and bar operators to implement measures to reduce staff movement by discouraging non-essential trips within venues - for example, by restricting access to some areas, encouraging use of radios, telephones or order and pay apps.

What’s more, it’s suggested that venues should introduce one-way systems through buildings using signage that clearly indicates the direction of flow, reduce maximum occupancy for lifts and encouraging the use of stairs wherever possible.

The Government also reminds operators to manage the use of high traffic areas including, corridors, lifts and staircases to maintain social distancing.

Working areas

Government guidance suggests that pub and bar operators should review layouts and processes to allow staff to work further apart from each other.

For people who work in one place within a venue - for example cashiers or staff behind a bar - working areas should accommodate social distancing from any colleagues as well as the public.

Working areas should be assigned on an individual basis as much as possible and, if they need to be shared, they should be occupied by the smallest possible number of people.

Only where it is not possible to move working areas further apart, arranging people to work side-by-side or facing away from each other rather than face-to-face. Where this is not possible, using screens to separate people from each other. 

What’s more, the Government suggests using floor tape or paint to mark areas to help people comply with social distancing guidelines.

Food preparation areas

While stating that Covid-19 is a respiratory illness and is not known to be transmitted by exposure to food, the Government’s guidance outlines a number of measures for food preparation areas.

It suggests allowing kitchen access to as few people as possible as well as minimising interaction between kitchen staff and other workers, including during staff breaks.  

Access to walk-in pantries, fridges and freezers should be minimised, with only one person allowed access to these areas at a time. 

Additionally, contact at handover points with other staff, such as when presenting food to serving staff and delivery drivers, should be minimised.

On top of this, the difficulty of social distancing at fixed work stations involving equipment such as sinks, hobs and ovens should be recognised and cleanable panels to separate working areas should be considered in larger kitchens.

Staff meetings

Pub and bar operators are advised to use remote working tools to avoid in-person meetings where possible, though when this guidance can’t be met, only absolutely necessary participants should attend physical meetings – which must be held under social distancing guidelines.

To avoid potential transmission during meetings, pens, documents and other objects should not be shared, while hand sanitiser should be provided.

Where possible, meetings should be held either outdoors or in well-ventilated rooms, however areas where regular meetings take place should use floor signage to help people maintain social distancing.

Back of house and common areas

Break times should be staggered to reduce pressure on the staff break rooms and places to eat. 

Safe outside areas should be used for staff breaks where possible, and its advised that social distance marking should be used for other common areas such canteens, reception areas, meeting rooms, areas of worship, toilets, gardens, fire escapes, kitchens, fitness facilities, store rooms, laundry facilities and any other areas where queues typically form.


Pub and bar operators should ensure that delivery drivers or riders maintain good hygiene and wash their hands regularly.

Procedures should also be put in place to minimise person-to-person contact during deliveries, while consistent pairing should be maintained where two-person deliveries are required. 

Finally, contact during payments and exchange of documentation should be minimised, for example, by using electronic payment methods and electronically signed and exchanged documents.

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