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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Retail Sector Guidance

Updated: Aug 19, 2021

Guidance for the retail sector, including close contact services such as hairdressers, barbers and beauty salons, which covers procedures for staff and customer safety and an operations checklist, as published by the Scottish Government.


This guidance is for the retail sector in Scotland. Its purpose is to assist businesses that provide retail and close contact services to operate safely and in accordance with the Scottish Government guidance.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): framework for decision making – Scotland’s route map through and out of the crisis sets out a phased approach to exiting from the lockdown. To judge whether and when restrictions can be changed we will consider a range of evidence on the progress of the pandemic in Scotland, using the principles set out in the Framework for Decision Making and our long-established commitment to fair work, which was set in the context of the current crisis in a joint statement with the STUC. Guidance will be reviewed on a regular basis as our priority remains containing the spread of the virus, saving lives and safeguarding the NHS.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19): Scotland’s Strategic Framework sets out our approach to outbreak management during Phase 3 of the Route Map and based on five levels of protection The five protection levels consist of four levels above the Route Map Phase 3 baseline (or 'Level 0'). They are designed to achieve progressively stronger effects in suppressing the virus, providing graduated protections locally and/or nationally. This means that most retail services may be able to operate in areas with low infection rates, while others may be required to close to help suppress the virus in areas with much higher rates.

This guidance has been developed in collaboration with industry, trade unions, regulators, and others. Protecting the health of workers is at the heart our approach. Partnership working is fundamental to establishing a shared confidence around the safety of workplaces, protecting public health and supporting Scotland’s economic recovery. We have worked with employers and trade unions to ensure that this guidance is evidence-based, fair and ethical, clear and realistic.

Each retailer will need to translate this guidance into the specific actions they need to take depending on the nature of their business (i.e. the size and type of business, how it is organised, operated, managed and regulated) using this document as a guide.

This is provided as guidance only and does not amount to legal advice. Employers may wish to seek their own advice to ensure compliance with all legal duties.

As each workplace is different it is for individual businesses to work with trade unions or workforce representatives selected by employees to determine how best to apply this guidance in their circumstances.

It has been designed to be applied to cover the spectrum of different retailers in Scotland from department stores to independent traders, with additional guidance for food retailers on the Food Standards Scotland Website. The operational guide for retailers section has a downloadable checklist for retailers with actions to consider. There are also posters available to print off to encourage the use of mandatory face coverings and health and safety messaging in the supporting files link above. Retailers are encouraged to display these posters, or posters with their own branding in their premises.

To help you decide which actions to take, you need to carry out an appropriate COVID-19 risk assessment, just as you would for other health and safety related hazards. The checklist included with this guidance should provide you with a good starting place. Risk assessments should be undertaken in consultation with trade unions, employee representatives or employees. The key areas which you need to consider are outlined in each of the sections. This guidance will assist businesses already operating, in identifying, reviewing and maintaining the changes they will need to make to prevent the spread of COVID-19 across their operations.

As a retailer you should consider whether you could operate using online and mail-order services and click and collect safely and in line with this guidance. There is also value in working together in smaller towns through business associations and chambers of commerce to manage safe re-opening and trading co-operatively. As we progress through fully unlocking the economy there will be complex issues to navigate and we ask that retailers use this guidance to inform their decision making in terms of when the right time to reopen is and the measures that need to be implemented to ensure it is done safely.

Read the full guidance on the Scottish Government Website:

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