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How can close contact services work safely? Here are the government’s coronavirus guidelines

6-minute read

Jessie Day

2 July 2020

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Last updated 7 August 2020

Do you work in close contact services? The government has released new Covid-19 secure guidance for salons, hairdressers, tattooists and other businesses preparing to reopen.

From hairdressing health and safety and personal hygiene in a salon to beauticians, massage therapists and tailors, are there any specific rules you need to follow? We’ve rounded up the current government guidelines for close contact services.

Mobile close contact services are also included in the guidance, so if you’re running a business from home or out visiting clients, here’s what’s required.

What are ‘close contact services’ and when can I reopen?

The government gives a few close contact services examples:

  • hairdressing and barbers
  • beauty, makeup and nail bars
  • tattoo and spray tan studios
  • spas, sports and massage therapy
  • wellbeing and holistic businesses
  • dress fitters, tailors and fashion designers

Specific reopening dates apply to these businesses:

  • 15 June for dress fitters, tailors and fashion designers
  • 4 July for businesses cutting ‘hair on the head’ only (hairdressers and barbers)
  • 13 July for other businesses – spas, nail bars and salons and beauty salons, tanning booths and salons, massage parlours, tattoo parlours, body and skin piercing services

For spas, keep in mind that you can operate these activities outdoors from 13 July and indoors from 25 July, provided you’re following all of the guidance: gyms, hot tubs, spa pools, whirlpools, hydrotherapy and swimming pools.

The government did announce that services carried out on the 'highest risk zone' could resume from 1 August, but have now postponed that by at least a fortnight. The government defines the highest risk zone as “the area in front of the face where splashes and droplets from the nose and mouth may be present, which can pose a hazard”. This means that businesses focusing exclusively on these services are still unable to open.

Activities in the highest risk zone include facial treatments and eyebrow threading.

The basics for reopening close contact services

When specific close contact service businesses can start to reopen from 4 July, the government’s basic principles around public safety remain the same:

  • ensuring you, your staff, customers and visitors comply with social distancing guidelines (two metres distance, wherever possible)
  • protecting people from being forced into an unsafe workplace
  • prioritising health and safety for workers, clients and the public

The guidance doesn’t replace or take priority over any health and safety, employment or equality legal obligations you may have in your industry. And you’ll need to factor agency workers and contractors into your plans, as well as your employees.

Working from other people’s homes or in retail? Along with the information below, read up on our guidance for working from a client’s home, or shops, branches and stores guidelines.

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Completing a Covid-19 risk assessment

If you employ people, you’re legally responsible for health and safety within your business. So you’ll need to make sure the risk assessment you already have in place addresses Covid-19, and is part of how your business runs day-to-day.

If you have fewer than five workers, or are self-employed, you don’t have to write anything down as part of your risk assessment. However, all employers should speak to their workers about health and safety and managing the risks of Covid-19. And if you have a duty to a recognised trade union, you’ll need to factor this in too.

For more information and guidance on how to create your own risk assessment, which includes coronavirus-specific precautions, head to the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) website.

Failure to complete a risk assessment which takes account of coronavirus, or putting measures in place, could mean a breach of health and safety law.

How to manage Covid-19 risks

The government has set out six priority-order steps to help you manage health and safety:

  • ensure workers and clients who are unwell do not attend the premises (or do any at-home visits)
  • increase hand washing and surface cleaning frequency
  • make every reasonable effort to enable working from home as a first option. If this isn’t possible, complying with social distancing guidelines is the next best option
  • consider whether a business activity needs to go ahead (for the business to operate), if you can’t fully keep to social distancing guidelines
  • use personal protective equipment (PPE) and other precautions (see below) to lower the risks that come with close contact work
  • assess whether an activity can go ahead safely, if people need to work face-to-face for sustained periods with more than a small group of fixed partners

For the last step, the government has given specific information for close contact work. If the activity can’t go ahead safely, it shouldn’t be resumed, and nobody should be forced into carrying it out.

Services which require workers to be within the ‘highest risk zone’ of clients – the area in front of the face – for the entire time (or the majority of the service) aren't yet able to resume. Despite announcing they could start from 1 August, on 31 July the government postponed that by at least two weeks.

Taking extra precautions

Social distancing guidelines can be difficult to maintain with close contact work. As well as using PPE, the government says businesses should:

  • further increase hand washing and surface cleaning frequency
  • avoid contact with surfaces near the client, and clean these after each use
  • keep the activity as short as possible
  • use screens or barriers to separate clients
  • wear visors when working in close proximity for long periods
  • use back-to-back or side-to-side working
  • run a consistent pairing system, where certain workers work together to reduce how many people they are in contact with

Share your risk assessment

You must share your risk assessment results with your workers. The government expects all employers with over 50 employees to publish these on their company website. And whatever your business size, you should have a prominent notice on display, like this government-designed Covid-19 sign.

How to keep everyone safe

The government has set out the steps you should take to help prevent the spread of coronavirus and keep everyone in contact with your business safe. These include:

  • keeping a temporary record of your clients and visitors for 21 days, to assist NHS Test and Trace
  • using a system (ideally online) to record your clients and visitors – head to our nine best online booking systems to choose the right one
  • taking steps to avoid people raising their voices (eg not playing loud music or broadcasts)
  • encouraging clients to use hand sanitiser or handwashing facilities when arriving and before treatment
  • working out the maximum number of clients you can have while maintaining social distancing guidelines, and limiting appointments at any one time
  • changing schedules for essential services and contractor visits to reduce overlap where possible
  • asking if your client can attend their appointment alone
  • reminding clients accompanied by children that they are responsible for supervising them at all times (including following social distancing guidelines)
  • using signage to inform your clients and visitors
  • reducing congestion and contact within your premises
  • maintaining or introducing reasonable adjustments for people who need them, including disabled clients
  • using outside queuing space where it’s safe to do so

You can find more close contact business safety steps on the government’s website.

Cleaning, PPE and workforce management

The guidance around these topics is regularly updated on the government’s website – you’ll find a whole hub page designed for close contact services and businesses.

There’s also a section dedicated to inbound and outbound goods, handy if you have lots of deliveries to your premises and need to maintain social distancing.

Help and support

Particular risks apply to close contact businesses – the government updates its guidelines regularly so make a note of the resources on offer. You can also check the Simply Business Covid-19 support page for small business-specific coronavirus support.

Government support

For the most up-to-date rules, please check the government's guidance to see how to apply it specifically to your business:

Simply Business support

Support from professional organisations

Are you preparing to reopen your close contact services business? What’s your biggest concern?

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We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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