Covid 19 and Business Closure – Legal Obligations
This article was posted in March 2020, shortly after the initial restrictions were imposed.
At 2 pm on Saturday 21 March 2020, the Government introduced further measures to help fight the Covid 19 pandemic. A law came into force which forced the closure of some businesses. On 23rd March, the Government announced further measures, closing a number of other businesses.
This law was enacted by virtue of The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Business Closure) (England) Regulations 2020 (and mirror regulations that apply in Wales). The statutory instrument was made in exercise of the powers conferred by sections 45C(1), (3)(c), (4)(d), 45F(2) and 45P of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984.
Which businesses must close?
Schedule 1 of the regulations state that the following businesses must close:
- Restaurants, including restaurants and dining rooms in hotels or members clubs.
- Cafes, including workplace canteens, but not including
- Cafes or canteens at a hospital, care home or school;
- Canteens at a prison or an establishment intended for use for naval, military or air force purposes, or for the purposes of the Department of the Secretary of State responsible for defence;
- Services providing food or drink to the homeless;
- Bars, including bars in hotels or members’ clubs.
- Public houses.
- Hair, beauty and nail salons, spas and massage parlours
- All retail premises, with a number of exceptions;
- Supermarkets and other food shops;
- health shops;
- pharmacies including non-dispensing pharmacies;
- petrol stations;
- bicycle shops;
- home and hardware shops;
- laundrettes and dry cleaners;
- bicycle shops;
- car rentals;
- pet shops;
- corner shops;
- post offices;
- Outdoor and indoor markets, except those offering essentials, such as groceries and food
- Auction houses
- Car showrooms
- Hotels, hostels, BnBs, campsites and boarding houses for commercial use, although keyworkers can stay there
- Caravan parks/sites for commercial use, unless used as a primary residence
- Community and youth centres
- Places of worship for services
- Cinemas, Theatres and Concert Halls.
- Bingo halls, casinos and betting shops.
- Museums and galleries.
- Indoor skating rinks.
- Indoor fitness studios, gyms, swimming pools or other indoor leisure centres.
- Enclosed spaces in parks, including playgrounds, sports courts and pitches, and outdoor gyms or similar
What is the penalty if businesses defy the law?
An unlimited fine can be imposed on the business and any officer of the company who has consented or connived etc. so keeping the business open (regulation 3).
There are, however, other powers available to local authorities who are in charge of policing compliance with these regulations.
Businesses that breach them will be subject to prohibition notices, and potentially unlimited fines. As a further measure, and if needed, businesses that fail to comply could also face the loss of their alcohol license. More draconian powers are also available under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984, and further powers will soon be law when the Coronavirus Bill becomes law.
In some cases, injunctive relief may be granted, the breach of which could be punished by up to 2 years imprisonment.
There are also reputational issues that need to be considered.
We can advise on all aspects of criminal and regulatory law, if any business is uncertain as to its legal obligations during this worrying time, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.
How can we help?
If you need specialist advice in relation to any criminal investigation or prosecution, from the initial investigation through to court proceedings, please get in touch. Call John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us help.