The following guidance is designed to help those re-opening sandwich bars, cafes and coffee shops comply with Government requirements in relation to COVID-19.
As every business premises and operation is different, this guidance adopts a risk assessment approach with the aim of safeguarding both those working in these businesses and the public using them. Risk assessments should be undertaken by the owner or manager responsible for running the premises and should be documented so that the business can demonstrate that it recognises its obligations and has done all it can to introduce safeguards. See HSE Coronavirus Risk Assessment Information.
This guidance should be viewed alongside Government advice which can be found at GOV.uk.
Businesses should notify their local authority of their intention to re-open and of any changes of activities they are planning (e.g. deliveries or takeaways).
Employers have a duty in law to reduce workplace risk to the lowest practicable level in order to safeguard everybody’s health and safety. It is important, therefore, that those responsible for managing sandwich bars, cafes and similar businesses take a risk assessment approach to dealing with the health risks posed by COVID-19.
As every business is different, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to safeguarding.
The following are things that you need to consider as part of your risk assessment.
Rights and Data Protection
Employers need to be aware of the rights of those working for them and their responsibilities under data protection legislation in some areas where it may be necessary to get the agreement of the employee to record information.
Social distancing is a key factor in the Government’s approach to managing COVID-19 and protecting people and it is important to emphasise this throughout the business, from managing staff work locations to serving customers. Being seen to manage social distancing effectively is also a key factor in giving the public confidence to visit your business.
Where social distancing cannot be followed in full, or when undertaking a particular activity, it is important to take other actions to minimise the risks. This might include:
- Increasing the frequency of hand washing
- Minimising the time involved in the activity
- Using screens to separate people from each other.
- Using back-to-back or side-to-side working (rather than face-to-face)
- Requiring staff to wear face coverings.
- Requiring those involved to work in fixed teams, so each person works only with a few others.
Regular hand washing has always been a critical part of food hygiene but with COVID-19 it is more important than ever and should take place frequently throughout the day as well as at key times when staff have touched surfaces that might carry the virus (e.g. cutlery, door handles, cups, equipment etc.).
Hands should be washed with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds.
If hand sanitiser is used it should be anti-viral with a high alcohol content. Gels can also be used.
All cleaning agents should be BS-EN 1276 or BS-EN 13697 compliant.
Staff Returning to Work
Before allowing staff to return to work, you need to check the following:
- Are they suffering any symptoms of Coronavirus?
- Do they live in accommodation shared with someone who has Coronavirus?
If the answer is Yes to either of the above, they should not be allowed to work and should be encouraged to have a test. They should not return to work any earlier than 7 days from the onset of the symptoms, and then, only if there is clinical improvement in their condition and they are not feverish. They can return to work after 7 days even though they may still have a cough or a loss of, or change, in their normal sense of smell or taste, as these symptoms are known to persist for several weeks in some cases.
If a member of staff with COVID-19 shares accommodation with others, all those in that household should self-isolate for 14 days from the start of the individual’s symptoms.
You can find out about getting tested here
Similarly, you should check if they are in a clinically vulnerable group. In other words, someone with an underlying health issue who is at particularly high risk if they catch Coronavirus. In this case you need to assess whether it is safe for them to return and whether there is a role for them which would enable them to keep at least 2 metres from anyone else or whether they could work from home. If their work necessitates them spending time within 2 metres of others, you should consider suspending them until it is safe to bring them back.
Consideration should also be given to the risks if a member of staff lives with others who are clinically extremely vulnerable.
Depending on their contract, you may need to continue to pay staff during suspension. However, you may be able to claim Statutory Sick Pay for them. Alternatively, they may be eligible for Universal Credit.
It is important that all those working in the business are made fully aware of the risks from COVID-19 and understand (and operate) the measures that the business has put in place to protect them, their families and customers.
This needs to include:
- An understanding of how COVID-19 can be passed to others
- How to recognise COVID-19 symptoms
- What to do if they feel unwell
- How to protect themselves and others from catching COVID-19
You can find out more:
Additional training will be required where there have been changes to processes, such as HACCP, to accommodate COVID-19 adaptions.
Pre Return to Work Checks
Before allowing any staff to return to work, employers need to check it is safe for them to do so by undertaking a phone interview with each person. These interviews should aim to establish:
- Have they been unwell and, if so, how long ago?
- If they have been unwell, have they fully recovered? Consider asking for confirmation from their doctor that they are fit and safe to return to work.
- Do they have any pre-existing conditions/underlying health problems that would put them at added risk from COVID-19? See Government/NHS111 advice here
- Have they been advised to shield by the NHS? If so, they should not be allowed to return.
- Do they share accommodation with someone who is unwell with COVID-19 symptoms? If so, they should isolate for 14 days and be tested before returning to work.
- Do they share accommodation with anyone who has underlying health problems that put them at particular risk from COVID-19?
- Before re-opening businesses must check that their premises are in good order and safe, this includes checking equipment such as coffee machines - see Reopening and adapting your food business during COVID-19
- Water systems in the premises should also be checked – see Legionella risks during the coronavirus outbreak
- A priority before re-opening will be to undertake a thorough clean of the premises and equipment.
Getting to and from Work
- Encourage everyone to observe social distancing both in and outside their workplace.
- Encourage staff to travel to and from work by walking, cycling etc rather than public transport and, wherever possible, to avoid crowded places.
- Stagger arrival and departure times to avoid everyone arriving at the same time and potentially compromising social distancing.
- Require everyone to wash their hands using soap and water for at least 20 seconds immediately on arrival at work
- Regularly disinfect touch points, particularly door handles etc. that may be touched by staff arriving at work.
- If uniforms are used, arrange for these to be washed commercially and not by individual members of staff at home. If washed by the business, use a laundry sanitising agent and wash at a temperature above 60℃.
- Uniforms must not be worn off the premises.
- Where uniforms are not worn, it is advisable for staff to change their work clothes on arrival at work, if possible.
- Where staff provide work clothes, they should be encouraged to wash their clothes at a temperature over 60℃ using a laundry sanitising agent.
Illness while at work
- If any member of staff becomes unwell with a fever or a new continuous cough while at work they must be immediately isolated from other members of staff/customers and sent home.
- Consideration should be given to how to get them home safely.
- See Government ‘stay at home’ guidance - here
- A rigorous cleaning regime must be employed throughout the premises.
- Government advice refers to using detergent then 1000ppm available chlorine for disinfecting to kill the virus in general areas. This can be made up from bleach.
- Sanitiser should be used in food preparation areas.
- Work, public areas and equipment should be cleaned between use using usual cleaning products – see Government guidance here
- If washing up by hand, ensure the water temperature is above 60℃.
- Areas that are likely to be touching points for the public and workers, such as door handles, waste bin lids, work surfaces, chairs etc. should be regularly disinfected.
- If someone is taken ill on the premises, the area they have been in – and particularly any touch points – must be disinfected thoroughly. The person doing the cleaning must wear disposable gloves and an apron. Disposable cleaning cloths should also be used and double-bagged after use then stored for 72 hours before being thrown in a regular bin.
- If an area is excessively contaminated, such as with bodily fluids, protection for the eyes, mouth and nose should be worn.
- Hands must be washed thoroughly once the cleaning is completed.
- Encourage everyone to sneeze or cough into the crook of their arm to prevent hands becoming contaminated or infecting others.
- If a tissue is used it should be binned immediately after use or flushed down a toilet.
- Wash hands immediately after sneezing, coughing etc.
- If masks are used getting to and from work, they should be removed on arrival and binned or stored securely away from contact with other people or surfaces.
- Masks, face coverings, tissues etc. must be disposed of in normal waste bins not recycling bins.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Government guidance on the provision and use of PPE should be followed - here
- Remind everyone daily not to come to work if they – or a member of their household – is unwell.
- Update everyone daily on the latest Government guidance and advice for safe working (here)
- Consider asking everyone to sign a register/form on arrival confirming they are well and are not aware they have been in direct contact with someone who is unwell. This action can help to act as a reminder to everyone.
Food Preparation Areas
- Review layouts and processes to allow staff to social distance, if at all possible.
- Where staff cannot work and comply with current social distancing requirements, arrange for them to work side-by-side or back-to-back rather than face-to-face.
- Where separation is not possible, consider using screens to separate people.
- Consider marking floors in food preparation areas with social distance markers to help staff maintain social distancing.
- Create one-way traffic movement to minimise contact.
- Follow the Government’s current guidance for managing food preparation in food service areas - here
- Minimise the number of people working in the food preparation areas.
- If you need to run shifts, put workers into teams and keep the teams apart.
- Allocate responsibilities to minimise movement.
- Set rules to manage access to fridges etc. and limit access to one person at a time.
- Consider working patterns to avoid contact between staff as much as possible, such as by avoiding staff handing things to each other as much as possible.
- Disinfect equipment regularly.
- Where equipment is in multiple use, wherever possible disinfect it between each handler using it.
- Minimise contact when taking deliveries.
Back Office Staff
- Encourage staff to work from home if they do not need to operate from the business premises.
- Avoid staff sharing equipment
- Observe social distancing in office areas.
Front of House Working
Staff interfacing with customers must be protected and social distancing rules should be applied as set out in Government guidance. See Keeping workers and customers safe during COVID-19 in restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services
- Although there is no obligation to wearing face coverings, this may be considered as a way of giving added assurance to customers and staff.
- Consider installing screens between staff and customers.
- Encourage customers to order in advance and pay on-line wherever possible – this will reduce the need for direct contact between staff and customers.
- Consider prepacking items for customers to grab and go to speed up service and reduce staff contact.
- Consider restricting menu choices to speed up customer throughput and assist social distancing.
- Where payment is necessary on site, use contactless payment wherever possible.
- Limit the number of customers allowed onto the premises at any one time to allow for social distancing.
- Manage queues outside the premises to allow social distancing and to avoid blocking pavements, if possible. Consider taping the ground to mark out social distance gaps.
- Ask customers not to enter if they are unwell or have symptoms of COVID-19. This can be done with signage.
- Consider potential pinch-points and how these can be managed to avoid crowding.
- Minimize potential customer touch points, such as menus, to what is absolutely necessary.
- Use cleanable surfaces for touch points, such as menus, and sanitise these between being used.
- Discourage customers from clearing tables - plates, cups, cutlery, used packaging etc. should only be picked up by staff and dealt with, wherever possible.
- Individual portion condiments and sauces should be used and provided on request rather than left on tables.
- Any cutlery should be handed to customers rather than left for them to collect unless it is disposable and prewrapped.
- Tables should be spaced out to allow for social distancing.
- Disinfect touch points (e.g. cash machines, chiller cabinet handles, tables etc.) regularly with a suitable anti-viral alcohol-based sanitiser.
See separate BSA Guidance here