Head of Projects Andrew Fleetwood looks at the latest business restrictions due to COVID-19
Winter is the worst time of year for transmission of respiratory illness in normal times and with the apparent emergence of more virulent strains of the coronavirus, governments around the world are reacting with tighter lockdown restrictions. It is hard to keep up with the changes. Here is a brief summary of the key changes for business in Scotland since the whole of mainland Scotland entered lockdown on 5 January 2021. The tougher rules were due to expire at the end of January 2021, but the Scottish Government has (as of 19 January) announced they will be extended.
1.Leisure, alcohol, close contact and non-essential retail businesses must close
Your clients in these sectors will be painfully aware of the rules here. And from just walking around my local city it is clear that certain retailers have closed even though they are entitled to open.
Retailers that may remain open are: food retailers (including convenience stores and corner shops) off-licences, pharmacies, newsagents, building merchants and suppliers to the building trade, petrol stations, car repair and MOT services, taxi and vehicle hire businesses, banks (etc), post offices, funeral directors, laundrettes and dry cleaners, dental services, dental services, opticians, audiology services, chiropody services, chiropractors, osteopaths and other medical or health services, including services relating to mental health, vets and pet shops, agricultural supplies and markets, storage and distribution facilities, car parks, public toilets, livestock markets or auctions, and outdoor markets and outdoor motor vehicle lots but only for the purpose of collection of a vehicle that has been purchased or for the purpose of delivery or collection of a vehicle for MOT, service or repair.
2.Working from home is now the default position for all businesses and services, and only those who cannot do their job from home should be asked to go to the workplace.
You will be aware of the rule here. In the words of the Scottish Government, the regulations on 5 January place a duty on employers to take all reasonable steps to minimise the spread of coronavirus. Enforcement against businesses is principally via the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974. Local authorities also have powers under public health legislation for example covering whether businesses should be operating physical distancing requirements. And the police or local authority officers may enter premises without a warrant if they have requested access and been refused and they reasonably believe the situation to be urgent.
All individuals must stay at home unless they have a reasonable excuse for leaving the house, or face fixed penalties, starting at £60 up to a maximum of £960. This can include leaving home to go to work, but only if your job cannot be done from home. The Scottish Government’s presumption is that if you were working from home during the first lockdown in March 2020, you should be working from home now.
A reasonable belief in urgency means that the relevant person considers immediate entry to the premises to be necessary and proportionate for the purpose of preventing the continuation of an offence and for the purpose of preventing, protecting against, controlling or providing a public health response to the incidence or spread of infection or contamination with coronavirus.
There is therefore the possibility that the police could enter work premises and, finding that staff are doing work that could be carried out at home, fine all the staff and send them all home.
3. Tightening restrictions
Other tightened restrictions to note are:
Workplace canteens must maintain a two-metre distance between individuals from different households. These canteens were previously required to maintain one-metre distancing.
Showroom areas within larger premises and snow sports centres must close.
Other venues that must close include independent clinics, independent hospitals and independent medical agencies, in relation to the provision of cosmetic procedures, but not for other provision of medical or surgical assistance.
Takeaway food and drink must now be supplied from a hatch or a doorway: customers may not enter premises.
Consumption of alcohol in public across Scotland is now unlawful.
Tradesmen must now not carry out works in people’s homes unless essential for the upkeep, maintenance and functioning of the household.
Click and collect services are now only available for retailers selling essential items, such as clothes and footwear, baby equipment, homeware and books.
4.Light at the end of the tunnel?
We hear about light at the end of the tunnel at the moment, with the vaccination programme ramping up. But we think it is very unlikely that the current restrictions on business will start to reduce much before March. The Scottish Government’s first priority seems to be to get children back to school, which based on current announcements, will not start before the middle of February. It would be reasonable to assume a slow and gradual unwinding of lockdown for business only after it is clear that re-opening the schools has not had a marked adverse effect on circulation of the virus.
If you would like further information on the topic discussed in this blog, please contact Andrew Fleetwood by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: 0131 516 5365 / 07841 920 101. You can also view Andrew’s profile by clicking here or if you would like to find out more about our Corporate Team, please click here.
The information and opinions contained in this blog are for information only. They are not intended to constitute advice and should not be relied upon or considered as a replacement for advice. Before acting on any of the information contained in this blog, please seek specific advice from Gilson Gray.