Coronavirus Regulations – What does this mean for businesses?
The economic impact of Coronavirus for both global and local businesses has been widely reported and it sends a clear message; many businesses are struggling to stay afloat, ride the cashflow storm and business confidence is falling as a result. Last week the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted a 3% reduction in global output, with a 6.5% annual fall in Britain alone.
Businesses within England are directly impacted by The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 or 'Coronavirus Regulations'. The regulations place a number of draconian but necessary restrictions on the public's movement and force the closure or prescribe restrictions for a number of businesses to operate. Google have compiled data from their users to show the social responses to the regulations; they found that there has been an 81% reduction (compared to baseline) in people attending retail outlets and a 57% reduction in those attending their workplace.
This article aims to summarise the Coronavirus Regulations and its impact on businesses within England, with a focus on the restrictions and enforcement powers. The restrictions apply within the emergency period and will only be lifted upon direction from the Secretary of State. For the purposes of this article businesses are split into three categories in which the regulations apply and affect the restrictions and the requirements the business type is subject to.
- Certain businesses are ringfenced from closure, such as supermarkets, pharmacies, corner shops and pet stores, which can remain open with restrictions.
- Other businesses will be subject to closure, which include but are not limited to: cinemas, nightclubs, museums, indoor fitness studios/ gyms and nail, beauty and hair salons and barbers (John Lewis have reported a 200% increase in the sale of clippers for those turning to DIY haircuts). Businesses that are not permitted to stay open with restrictions must cease to carry on the business or service, except where making deliveries or when services are provided through a website, telephone or post. This is subject to government guidance for specific industries, as has been seen in the childcare sector. Businesses must also close the premises and cease to admit anyone who is not required to carry on the business or provide the service for the purposes of carry on the business through the permitted means. Those who provide holiday accommodation, hotel, hostel, B&B etc are limited to a handful of instances where their accommodation can be provided.
- Businesses that fall within the third category, such as cafes, restaurants or public houses will be required to close the whole or part of their premises to prevent people from consuming food and drink on site. Whilst the restrictions also apply to areas adjacent to the business where seating is made available for customers, exception is made for room services in hotels or the like and business that provides hot or cold food for consumption off premises, for example a restaurant providing home delivery.
The Regulations give a 'relevant person' or an 'authorised person' (Constable, Police Community Support Officer and a Secretary of State / Local Authority directed person) powers to enforce the restrictions mentioned above.
Where a person (an owner, proprietor and manager of a business) contravenes the requirements to close a premises or breach the restriction on business activities and it is considered necessary and proportionate to prevent further contravention, then a prohibition notice may be issued. If there is a failure to comply with a prohibition notice then a criminal offence is committed and a Fixed Penalty Notice may be issued or a person of business charged.
The regulations impose culpability of 'body corporates' (businesses) and 'officers', who are defined as a director, manager, secretary or similar role. A body corporate will be committing an offence if it is proved that the act was committed with the consent or connivance of an officer of the business or if it is attributable to any neglect of that officer. The officer and the body corporate can be guilty of a criminal offence and be liable to prosecution by the Crown Prosecution Service.
Across the country prohibition notices have been issued; it is paramount that businesses understand the restrictions and the potential criminal liability of breaching the regulations.
Nothing within this article is to be treated as formal legal advice. If you require further legal advice, particularly if you have been issued with a Prohibition Notice, then please speak with our Senior Clerk Adam Taplin, please do not hesitate to call him directly on 0207 889 2525 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.