Running a business during COVID-19
As a business, you are in the ideal position to help fight the spread of COVID-19 by ensuring that you, your staff and your customers stay safe.
You will find below lots of useful information about how to keep your workforce safe, as well as the latest guidance about self-isolating and what to do if there is an outbreak at your place of work.
Practical tips to keep your staff safe
There are three key areas to focus on to help keep your business running and your staff and customers safe:
Encourage your staff to get tested and vaccinated
Ideally everyone should test themselves twice a week even if they feel well. With 1 in 3 people showing no symptoms when they have COVID-19, the free tests you can do at home give us all the chance to stop the spread quickly.
Symptom-free test kits can be collected from local testing centres, pharmacies, main Council buildings including libraries and leisure centres as well as from our mobile testing vehicles when they are out and about in Wirral.
Alternatively your staff can order symptom-free test kits to be delivered to and carried out at home.
COVID-19 symptom-free test kits for high-risk businesses
If you run a high-risk business in Wirral as listed below, you can register to order symptom-free test kits for your staff. Kits are free of charge and will enable your staff to test themselves twice a week in line with government guidance.
We encourage and support the delivery of on-site testing and distribution of home tests in high-risk occupational workplace settings for the following sectors;
- Prisons and courts
- Education, or childcare and children’s home
- Domiciliary care
- Supported living and extra care housing
- Social care settings
- Warehouses, factories, call-centres and food manufacturing
- Close contact services such as hairdressing, barbers, taxi drivers, beauticians, sports and massage therapists etc
- Hospitality sector with customer-facing contact
- Gyms and leisure facilities
- National and regional infrastructure
- HMO, Shared House and Dormitories
You can register for symptom-free tests if you are a high-risk business on our business testing page
Every adult is eligible for the vaccine and it is important you encourage and enable your staff to get their first and second jabs. The vaccine is the best protection for our community and your business.
Feel unwell – stay home, get a test
If your staff feel unwell they should not come into work. Even if the symptoms are mild such as a headache, stuffed or runny nose, tiredness or weakness, aches and pains, sore throat, diarrhoea or nausea, they need to take a rapid home lateral flow test (LFT).
If your staff do need to isolate after a positive test, remember support is available.
Implement cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures
Business owners are advised to implement regular cleaning protocols:
- touch points (e.g. handles, baskets, debit card PIN pads) should be a particular area of focus for increased cleaning.
- provide hand sanitisers (with a minimum alcohol content of 60+%) at entrances and exits.
- maintain cleaning stations or hand sanitiser points at the front of your business for customers to clean hands, trolleys and baskets.
- to help everyone maintain good hygiene, your premises should have sufficient handwashing facilities which should be kept clean.
- signs should be displayed to build awareness of the importance of handwashing.
- ensure food, equipment and packaging are cleaned and handled in line with usual food safety practices.
- make sure toilets have enough soap and disposable towels are available for customers and staff
Things to look out for when choosing cleaning products:
- make sure that any contact surfaces are sanitised with a product that is capable of killing enveloped viruses. Using products that are just antibacterial will not be effective against coronavirus. The products you need should have reference to EN14476 on the back label – this number tells you the product has been tested and kills coronavirus.
- pay attention to the contact time for it to be effective and kill the virus. Longer contact times may not be practical for your workplace eg for high traffic areas including touchpoints, door handles, or situations where staff do not have time to leave the product on the surface for 5 minutes. Choose one with a shorter contact time.
- make sure you and your staff follow the instructions for the product chosen.
- if your chosen product needs to be diluted before use, make sure you use the correct dilution level.
- supervise staff to make sure they don’t cut corners.
- remind staff regularly to clean down surfaces, touch points, etc properly, use the right product, and follow the instructions.
As part of your risk-assessment you should ensure that you have considered control measures to prevent close contacts and therefore the transmission of COVID-19 in all areas of your business including staff changing areas, break rooms, smoking areas and car sharing to and from work as these are areas that are sometimes overlooked.
Encourage social distancing
To help staff and customers maintain social distancing you should:
- display posters to promote social distancing and good hygiene.
- ensure staff and customers wear their face coverings in enclosed spaces – it is to be worn over the mouth and nose, not as a chin strap!
- sample posters are available in this toolkit to display in your business and more information about face coverings, when to wear them and exemptions is available here.
- where people cannot be apart, manage transmission risk by opening
- windows or installing plexiglass barriers.
- use back-to-back or side-to-side working whenever possible.
- avoid the sharing of workstations and space desks apart.
- display clear markings on floors to help maintain social distancing, especially in areas where there is likely to be queuing. In this toolkit you will find signs that you can download and print.
QR Codes and the Test and Trace App
Businesses are strongly advised to prominently display a QR code in their venue. Use this link to create a QR code and get visitors to scan the QR code when they arrive, using the NHS COVID-19 app. This is to help trace and stop the spread of COVID-19. If you have more than one venue, you need to create a separate QR code for each location. You can add multiple locations in the service.
Ensure a manual check-in process is in place if someone is not able to access the QR code. It is vitally important everyone can be contacted if tracing is needed.
When to self-isolate
Given the high rate of COVID-19 circulating in the community and despite your best efforts to maintain good hygiene and social distancing in your premises, you may well be faced with a situation where a member of staff must self-isolate.
Rules on self-isolation have recently changed. For the latest guidance go to NHS.uk
PCR tests are available at one of our testing centres in Birkenhead, Bebington, Liscard and Heswall.
Members of of staff will be able to get an isolation note and give this to you, as the employer.
Support to self-isolate
Support is available for anyone who needs to isolate. Those on a low income or who are self-employed and will lose money by not being able to work, may be able to access specific support in place to help financially. This includes parents or guardians who are not legally required to self-isolate if they need to take time off work to care for a young person who is.
If a member of staff does test positive for COVID-19 please support them to self-isolate and work with the local contact tracing team to make sure the spread of infection is stopped in its tracks.
Do not wait for contact tracers to get in touch. Compile a list of close contacts immediately, ready to go through with the contact tracers when they call. This will save valuable time and could be the difference between keeping your business open or having to close.
Managing a confirmed case in your workplace
Following a member of staff or a customer having a test, they will be contacted by the local contact tracing team if they test positive for COVID-19. They will be asked where they have been recently and who they have been in close contact with.
Once a case is identified as being linked to your business, the quicker you react the more the risk of future cases and of an outbreak occurring is reduced.
Acting quickly is crucial to limiting the impact on your business.
How do I identify close contacts?
It is important this process starts immediately and you should not wait to be contacted by the local contact tracing team. Having the information ready will enable the local contact tracer to quickly confirm who needs to self-isolate. This early action may prevent further cases and potential closure of the workplace.
Following discussion with the positive case(s) you should identify all close contacts of the case(s) - including staff, customers, and visitors and advise them of the requirement to self-isolate for 10 days from when they were last in contact with the positive case unless any of the following apply:
- you are fully vaccinated
- you are below the age of 18 years 6 months
- you have taken part in or are currently part of an approved COVID-19 vaccine trial
- you are not able to get vaccinated for medical reasons
Fully vaccinated means that you have been vaccinated with an MHRA approved COVID-19 vaccine in the UK, and at least 14 days have passed since you received the recommended doses of that vaccine.
If they are exempt they should immediately arrange to get a PCR test at one of our PCR test centres in Birkenhead, Bebington, Liscard or Heswall and limit their contacts until they know the result. These individuals will not need to self-isolate while they wait for their PCR result and can continue to work as normal.
If they are not exempt they must still self-isolate for 7 days from the last day they were in contact with a positive case. They can NOT return to work on the basis of a negative test within the 10 days - this is because there is up to a 7-day incubation period for COVID-19 symptoms to develop.
A ‘close contact’ is a person who has been close to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 anytime from 2 days before the person was symptomatic up to 10 days from onset of symptoms (this is when they are infectious to others).
A workplace contact is any person who has had any of the following types of contacts with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19:
- face-to-face contact (within one metre), including: being coughed on, or having a face-to-face conversation within one metre*
- been within one metre for one minute or longer without face-to-face contact (i.e. working together in a bar or kitchen area but not necessarily face to face)
- been within 2 metres of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 for more than 15 minutes. Even with a mask on you are still classed as a close contact if you have been within 2 metres
- been within 2 metres of someone for more than 15 minutes (either as a one-off contact, or added up together over one day) i.e. a person may have been over the course of a day within 2 metres of someone but in smaller amounts of time. If this time added up over a working day is more than 15 minutes then they are a close contact
- travelled in a car together. For larger vehicles, such as buses, assess whether 2 metre distancing has been maintained
* Make sure you understand 1m+ implications. Working within 2 metres of someone whilst wearing a mask or being separated by partial screening does not discount you from being a close contact.
Consider the definition of a close contact and use this to identify all likely infected people who will need to self-isolate and get tested to confirm their status.
Unfortunately, the close contacts who are not exempt regardless of their test result will still need to self-isolate as they could become infectious up to 7 days after being in contact with a positive case.
Therefore, social distancing and using good hand and respiratory hygiene in work will stop a person becoming a close contact. Where operational activities prevent a person from maintaining the controls in work then these are at least known to the business from the outset and can be identified quickly to self-isolate without much investigation. Containing the spread quickly and accurately will give your business the best chance of remaining open.
It is of great importance you QUICKLY identify those close contacts. With the help of the positive case, it is the responsibility of the workplace to inform their close contacts of the requirement to self-isolate and not to wait until NHS Test and Trace contacts them.
Should there have been serious breaches, or the premises is not fully cooperating with a response investigation this will present an ongoing risk of transmission to the community. As a last resort there are enforcement options available to the local authority.
Managing an outbreak
If there are several cases in a workplace, the business should report it to the Wirral Outbreak Hub to seek advice so that we can limit the impact on your business. Acting quickly and being proactive will help contain the spread of the virus. Together we can maintain public safety and confidence which benefits everyone. We are here to help.
Wirral Outbreak Hub can support you by reviewing control measures and closing any gaps in the daily operations of your premises that will increase risk of virus transmission. We want you to remain open and operational. The Delta variant is more transmissible, and it will spread in settings that do not fully enact the well known controls of HANDS-FACE-SPACE-FRESH AIR.
Vaccination does not prevent transmission of the virus from person to person so COVID-19 control measures still need to be in place to prevent spread of the virus within your workforce and customers. It is essential we all follow the guidelines to keep everyone safe.
This is also why you should encourage staff to get tested twice weekly even once they are fully vaccinated. They may not have symptoms but they could still pass on the virus to someone without knowing.
When must I close my business?
It is usually a business decision whether to close your premises once positive cases emerge in the workforce. Closure will depend on the number of staff self-isolating and what is required in order to undertake a full deep clean of the premises. The Outbreak Hub will be able to advise you as to what the next steps are in managing the outbreak and the timescales and processes you will need to follow before you can safely reopen to customers.
We will do everything we can to work with you to keep your business open.
- To report an outbreak in your business click here.
- If you have a specific COVID-19 enquiry contact the Wirral Outbreak Hub at firstname.lastname@example.org
- For any questions about environmental health, email email@example.com
- For licensing and permit enquiries firstname.lastname@example.org
- For business support contact Wirral Chamber of Commerce email email@example.com
- Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) has lots of useful
information about managing employees during COVID-19.
Sign up and become a 'Champion' for business
COVID-19, and the measures taken in response, continue to impact both individuals and businesses. The Community Champions network was launched in September 2020 to provide those wishing to support their local area with up-to-date information and guidance relating to COVID-19.
With over 600 people currently signed up, the network allows individuals from all walks of life in Wirral to provide their loved ones, co-workers and community with the latest intelligence around the virus. We want business champions to join us, and help signpost colleagues toward the best ways to keep themselves safe, tackle harmful misinformation and empower individuals to make informed choices.
Does your workplace have a community champion? Ask them to sign up and they’ll be given access to updates from local and central Government on symptom-free workplace testing, financial support to self-isolate or business grants to help you rebuild.
Resources for your business
You will find below a series of downloadable posters and resources you can print out and use at your place of work to reinforce messages about social distancing and hygiene. Click ‘print’ and select which page(s) you wish to print.