Latest COVID-19 advice for food businesses in England
In April 2022, the UK Government issued their latest COVID-19 advice for food businesses having removed restrictions and free testing as part of the Living with COVID plan. Here we answer commonly asked questions from food business managers.
Is a COVID-19 risk assessment legally required for food businesses?
No, there is no longer a requirement for food businesses to consider COVID-19 in their risk assessments or to have specific measures in place.
Do food businesses still have to follow the Working Safely guidance for our sector?
No, the official guidance for workplaces has been replaced with public health advice to reduce the spread of respiratory infections (including COVID-19).
How can food businesses reduce the spread of respiratory infections?
This public health advice details four important actions to ensure employers comply with their legal obligations relating to health and safety, employment and equality duties:
- Know which symptoms to look out for
- Advise staff what to do if they have symptoms
- Follow guidance to prevent workplace spread
- Manage staff who are at risk of serious illness from COVID-19
What symptoms do staff and managers need to look for?
Symptoms of COVID-19, flu and common respiratory infections include:
- continuous cough
- high temperature, fever or chills
- loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell
- shortness of breath
- unexplained tiredness, lack of energy
- muscle aches or pains that are not due to exercise
- not wanting to eat or not feeling hungry
- headache that is unusual or longer lasting than usual
- sore throat, stuffy or runny nose
- diarrhoea, feeling sick or being sick
Some people may continue to have a cough or feel tired after other symptoms have improved, but this does not mean that they are still infectious.
If a member of staff is unwell with any of these symptoms, you are legally obliged to support and enable them to follow the Government’s guidance for people with symptoms of a respiratory infection including COVID-19.
What should we advise staff with symptoms that have not taken a COVID-19 test?
Staff, who have a temperature or do not feel well enough to go to work or carry out normal activities, should stay at home and avoid contact with others. They should still work from home if they are able, or talk to you about other options.
There is no requirement for them to take a COVID-19 test and they can return to the workplace when they no longer have a temperature and feel well enough.
In addition, food handlers with vomiting or diarrhoea must not be allowed to return to the workplace unless they have been free from these symptoms for at least 48 hours. They should also not be at work with a bad cold. This is because these symptoms are also indicative of foodborne illness that they could pass on when handling food.
What should we advise staff who have a positive COVID-19 test result?
Staff with a positive COVID-19 test result (with or without symptoms) should stay at home and avoid contact with others. They should still work from home if they are able, or talk to you about other options.
There is no requirement for them to take another COVID-19 test. Staff can return to the workplace 5 days (3 days if under 18 years) after the day they took the test if they no longer have a temperature and feel well enough.
How should food businesses prevent workplace spread of respiratory infections?
- encourage and enable vaccination following this vaccination guide for employers
- let plenty of fresh air in and follow the HSE guidance to workplace ventilation
- maintain a clean workplace by cleaning surfaces that people touch a lot and providing them with effective cleaning products and hand washing facilities.
- promote and apply these principles more rigorously when there is an outbreak of respiratory illness in the workplace (although there is no need to report these any longer).
How should we manage staff who are at risk of serious illness from COVID-19?
Shielding and identifying people who are clinically extremely vulnerable is no longer required due to the success of the COVID-19 vaccination programme, but there remains a small number that are still at a higher risk and enhanced protection may benefit these individuals. They will usually have been identified in one of two ways:
- eligibility for a third primary dose of the COVID-19 vaccine or Spring booster
- eligibility for new treatments for COVID-19
Food businesses may wish to specifically consider the needs of these employees and support them to follow the COVID-19 guidance for people whose immune system means they at higher risk
Please contact Safer Food Scores if you would like us to visit to examine your workplace safety standards and provide any recommendations for improvement.