What new Covid restrictions mean for small business

Retailers could be fined if they don’t wear facemasks, while pubs and restaurants must shut by 10pm. New rules to be in place for at least six months

Boris Johnson outlined the latest set of Covid restrictions this afternoon, significantly tightening laws for small business in England ahead of a second wave.

The latest set of Covid restrictions, which will become law, threaten any small business that does not comply with fines. Shop assistants in retailers could, for example, be fined £200 for not wearing a facemask behind the counter.

Mr Johnson warned that the new regulations, which underpin the rule of six – preventing any more than six people congregating – will be in place for the next six months.

>See also: Rishi Sunak to extend government coronavirus business support

The new clampdown will be a blow to pubs and restaurants, which from Thursday, September 24 have to shut at 10pm. That means close completely, not last orders.

  • All pubs, bars and restaurants must operate table service only and must close at 10pm
  • Staff and customers in pubs, bars and other indoor hospitality must wear facemasks when not eating and drinking
  • Retail staff and all users of taxis and minicabs must wear face coverings
  • Covid-secure guidelines for retail, leisure, tourism and other sectors will become law. Businesses will be fined and forced to close if they breach the rules
  • Office workers should work from home if they can
  • Business conferences and events are postponed until further notice. They had been planned to reopen on October 1

>See also: Small businesses have average of just £9,000 left from Bounce Back Loan

Small business reaction

Mike Cherry, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, warned that the existing government support measures to help small business are ending. The Bounce Back Loans scheme ends in November, while the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme ends in October.

Plans for nightclubs to reopen and for the events industry to crank up in time for Christmas are “now in disarray”, said Cherry.

Cherry said: “Small businesses and the self-employed will be dismayed at facing another six months of restrictions … this fresh round of restrictions will cause significant disruption for thousands of small firms”.

Emma Jones, founder of small business support network Enterprise Nation said that introducing fines and restrictions on businesses that were just beginning to get back on their feet again “may be a step too far”.

Meanwhile, Roger Barker, policy director at the Institute of Directors, said that the government needs to help small firms adjust and adapt, while the Treasury should look to fill the gap as the flagship measures wind down to prevent a steep rise in insolvencies and unemployment.

Further reading

How to reopen your small business post lockdown – what we know so far



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Tim Adler

Tim Adler is group editor of Small Business, Growth Business and Information Age. He is a former commissioning editor at the Daily Telegraph, who has written for the Financial Times, The Times and the...