This sector guidance is for anyone working in non-food stores, fashion stores and other types of retail. This guidance also covers shops selling food, and chemists and branches include bank branches and other open money businesses.

Who should go to work? 

Workers should work from home unless they cannot do so and nobody should go to work if the business they work for remains closed under current government regulations. Employers should carefully consider who it is essential to have on the premises and back of house workers should work from home if at all possible.

Social distancing at work

As in all other workplaces, the guidance makes clear the overarching objective is to maintain two metre social distancing wherever possible. Specific social distancing measures with respect to coming to work and leaving work include staggering arrival and departure times, reducing congestion by having more entry points into the workplace in larger stores, using markings and introducing one-way flow at entry and exit points.

Social distancing should also be maintained while people travel through the workplace. Non-essential trips should be discouraged with consideration given to the use of radios or telephones where permitted. Other measures include limitations placed on passengers travelling in corporate vehicles, reducing the maximum occupancy for lifts and regulating the use of high traffic areas including corridors, lifts, turnstiles and walkways. 

Social distancing should be maintained between individuals at their workstations and layouts should be reviewed to allow workers to work further apart from one another where possible. Floor tape should be used to help people keep two metres apart. Other measures include using screens to create a barrier between workers, the installation of screens and efforts to minimise contact around transactions, so for example considering using contactless payments. Working face-to-face should also be avoided.

In addition, remote working tools should be utilised to avoid face-to-face meetings, meetings should be held outside or in well-ventilated rooms and only include ‘absolutely necessary participants’. To assist with social distancing in common areas measures like staggered breaks, safe outside areas to use for breaks and the provision of packaged meals where possible to avoid opening a staff canteen are recommended.

Managing contacts

The overarching objective as set out in the guidance is to minimise contact resulting from visits to stores or outlets. In this regard, consideration has to be given to defining the number of customers that can reasonably follow two metre social distancing within the store and any outdoor selling areas, limit the number of customers in the store overall and in particularly high congestion areas, suspending or reducing customer services that cannot be undertaken without contravening social distancing guidelines and encouraging customers to shop alone unless they need specific assistance. Other measures include utilising queue management or one-way flow to reduce congestion and contact between customers, using outside premises for queueing and having clearly designated positions from which colleagues can provide advice or assistance to customers.

Emphasis is also placed on making sure people understand what they need to do to maintain safety. Measures include providing clear advice to people on social distancing and hygiene on arrival, creating social distancing champions to demonstrate social distancing guidelines to customers and ensuring latest guidelines are available in selling and non-selling areas. 

Employers should encourage visits via remote connection or remote working if at all possible to minimise the number of visits. Where that is not viable, steps should be taken to limit the number of visits at any one time and to determine ‘if schedules for essential services and contractor visits can be revised to reduce overlap and interaction’. Furthermore, clear guidance should be given to those coming on site about social distancing and the need to maintain a high level of hygiene through visual aids, signage and, before they arrive, through email, phone or the website as appropriate.

Social distancing and precautions against any surface transmission need to be considered when goods enter and leave the site, especially in high volume situations. This can be done by minimising unnecessary contact at gatehouse security, considering methods to reduce frequency of deliveries and, where possible, having single workers load or unload vehicles or the same pairs of people doing the same.

Cleaning the workplace 

If facilities have been closed and are to re-open, ventilation, air conditioning and positive pressure systems need to be checked as well as any specialist equipment.

Once open, workplaces need to be kept clean. This will involve the frequent cleaning of work areas and the frequent cleaning of objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, such as self-checkouts, trolleys, coffee machines or staff handheld devices. In addition, workspaces should be cleared and waste and belongings removed at the end of each shift.

Steps should be taken to encourage a good level of hygiene, with signs and posters as to hand washing frequency, technique and standards, the provision of hand sanitiser, setting guidance for the use of toilets and enhancing cleaning for busy areas.

Customer fitting rooms will also require specific attention, with consideration as to whether they should be open at all. If they are opened they should be cleaned regularly (typically between each use) and procedures to manage clothes that have been tried on and the limiting of contact between customers and staff during fitting should be created.

Measures to reduce transmission through contact with objects in the store will include encouraging increased handwashing and introducing more handwashing facilities for workers and customers, limiting customer handling of merchandise, putting in place picking-up and dropping-off collection points, enforcing staggered collection times for customers collecting items and keeping returns separately from displayed merchandise.

Managing the workforce

Work should be organised to create distinct groups and reduce the number of contacts each worker has, so where contact is unavoidable it happens between the same people. In addition, direct contact can be reduced through the use of drop-off points or transfer zones where previously workers would have had to pass things directly to one another.

Non-essential travel should be minimised, as should the numbers travelling in any one vehicle. When making deliveries at other sites, person-to-person contact should be minimised, as well as during any payment or exchange of documentation, for example by using electronic payment methods. Consistent pairing should be utilised where two-person deliveries are required.

Communications must be clear, consistent and regular so workers understand coronavirus (COVID-19)-related safety procedures. On-going engagement with the workforce must be maintained through trade unions and other employee representative groups. 

You can read the guidance in full here. 

Articles shared by Thompsons relating to coronavirus (COVID-19) are correct at the time of publication. You should check the government's guidelines for the latest information and advice at