Social Distancing Guidance for Retail Workers

What this guide is for

On 7th April 2020, the government produced a document containing guidance for specific sectors on how to implement social distancing. There was also a guidance document specifically for food businesses produced in March. As GMB Reps and members we wanted you to have a better idea of how these documents should be implemented in your workplaces so we decided to produce this short guide. You can use it to check that your employer is doing all they should be, to protect you as much as reasonably possible.

Where work must carry on and workers are unable to keep a 2 metre distance from each other at all times, in spite of other control measures implemented; then the Employer should complete a risk assessment and look at providing suitable PPE. This should consider whether face masks, gloves, eye protection and coveralls are needed to provide further protection

What should supermarkets and other shops selling essential items be doing?

The Government ask that supermarkets and shops do the following, where possible:

  • Entry into the store should be managed, only allowing a limited number of people to be in the store at a time.
  • Signs should be prominently placed outside the store asking customers with symptoms to not enter.
  • Signs should be placed outside and inside the store reminding customers to always keep 2 metres from other people, wherever possible.
  • Vertical signage should be used to direct customers into lanes to help with movement within the store while maintaining 2 metre distance.
  • Floor markings should be used inside the store to help with social distancing of 2 metres, particularly in the most crowded areas, such as serving counters and tills.
  • Employees should be encouraged to wash their hands with soap and water as often as possible and for 20 seconds every time. Extra breaks should be allowed so this can be done.
  • There should be regular announcements to remind customers to follow social distancing advice and clean their hands regularly.
  • Encourage the use of contactless payments where possible.
  • Additional pop-up handwashing stations or facilities should be provided, if possible, containing soap, water and hand sanitiser.
  • Plexiglass barriers should be placed at tills and counters if feasible, as an additional element of protection for workers and customers. These barriers should be cleaned regularly.
  • Employees should be advised to keep 2 metres apart as much as possible.
  • There should be daily reminders telling employees to only come into work if they are well and no one in their household is self-isolating due to symptoms or diagnoses of COVID 19.

What should shops running a pick-up or delivery service be doing?

No orders should be taken in person at the shop. They should only be taken online or by telephone and this must be communicated to customers by clear signage outside the shop and online.

Social distancing measures apply to everyone and steps should be taken to avoid crowding and minimise opportunities for the virus to spread by maintaining a distance of 2 metres between individuals, wherever possible.

When customers are collecting items

Where customers are collecting items, the following should be done:

  • There should be staggered collection times.
  • When customers whose orders are ready enter, they should enter one at a time to collect orders.
  • Contactless payments should be made where possible, maintaining a safe distance.
  • Where queuing is taking place, queue management systems, such as those listed in the supermarket and shop section above should be used to maintain a safe distance.

When deliveries are made to customers

For retailers or restaurants running a delivery service the following should be done:

  • No goods or food should be physically handed over to the customer. There should instead be a set drop-off point agreed in advance.
  • After ringing the doorbell, drivers should maintain a safe distance (2 metres) from the door and oversee the delivery of the goods. The goods should not be left unattended.
  • To minimise the risk of a customer not answering the door, steps such as setting an approximate delivery time and gaining a contact number should be taken by your employer.
  • Employers must put in place a system to ensure that drivers are notified of people who are in self-isolation or are unwell, before a delivery is carried out.
  • Delivery workers should not enter the customer’s property.
  • Workers should be informed, by their employer, to wash their hands using soap and water for 20 seconds as regularly as possible.
  • All delivery workers should be given hand-sanitiser to be carried at all times and used after each delivery.
  • Employees should be reminded daily to only come into work if they are well and no one in their household is self-isolating.


Other good practice that your employer could implement

General principles

  • Non-essential physical work that requires close contact between workers should not be carried out
  • Work requiring skin to skin contact should not be carried out
  • Plan all other work to minimise contact between workers
  • Re-usable PPE must be thoroughly cleaned after use and not shared between workers
  • Single use PPE should be disposed of so that it cannot be reused
  • Stairs should be used in preference to lifts or hoists
  • Where lifts or hoists must be used:
    • Lower their capacity to reduce congestion and contact at all times
    • Regularly clean touchpoints, doors, buttons etc.
  • Regularly clean the inside of vehicles and between use by different employees.

General good practice

  • Introducing staggered start and finish times for workers, to reduce congestion and contact at all times
  • Remove or disable entry systems that require skin contact e.g. fingerprint scanners or keypad entry systems. Where this is not possible, they should be cleaned before and after each use
  • Any technology being handled by both worker and customer must be disinfected after every use.
  • Regularly clean surfaces in common areas such as reception, office and delivery areas e.g. doors, scanners, turnstiles, screens, telephone handsets, desks etc. particularly during peak flow times
  • Reduce the number of people in attendance at workplace meetings and consider holding them outdoors wherever possible
  • Drivers should remain in their vehicles if the load will allow it and must wash or clean their hands before and after loading or unloading goods and materials.

Toilet facilities

  • Restrict the number of people using toilet facilities at any one time
  • Wash hands before and after using the facilities
  • Enhance the cleaning regimes for toilet facilities particularly door handles, locks and the toilet flush
  • Provide suitable and sufficient rubbish bins for hand towels with regular removal and disposal.

Canteens and eating arrangements

With cafés and restaurants having been closed across the UK, canteens cannot operate as normal. Whilst there is a requirement for workplaces to provide a means of heating food and making hot drinks, these are exceptional circumstances and where it is not possible to introduce a means of keeping equipment clean between use, kettles, microwaves etc. must be removed from use. The workers should also be required to stay on site once they have entered it and not use local shops.

  • Dedicated eating areas should be identified on site to reduce food waste and contamination
  • Break times should be staggered to reduce congestion and contact at all times
  • Hand cleaning facilities or hand sanitiser should be available at the entrance of any room where people eat and should be used by workers when entering and leaving the area
  • The workforce should be asked to bring pre-prepared meals and refillable drinking bottles from home
  • Workers should sit 2 metres apart from each other whilst eating and avoid all contact
  • Where catering is provided on site, it should provide pre-prepared and wrapped food only
    • Payments should be taken by contactless card wherever possible
    • Crockery, eating utensils, cups etc. should not be used
  • Drinking water should be provided with enhanced cleaning measures of the tap mechanism introduced
  • Tables should be cleaned between each use
  • All rubbish should be put straight in the bin and not left for someone else to clear up
  • All areas used for eating must be thoroughly cleaned at the end of each break and shift, including chairs, door handles, vending machines and payment devices.


  • Only absolutely necessary meeting participants should attend
  • Attendees should be two metres apart from each other
  • Rooms should be well ventilated / windows opened to allow fresh air circulation
  • Consider holding meetings in open areas where possible.


  • Enhanced cleaning procedures should be in place across the site, particularly in communal areas and at touch points including:
    • Taps and washing facilities
    • Toilet flush and seats
    • Door handles and push plates
    • Hand rails on staircases and corridors
    • Machinery and equipment controls
    • Food preparation and eating surfaces
    • Telephone equipment
    • Keyboards, photocopiers and other office equipment
    • Lift and hoist controls
  • Rubbish collection and storage points should be increased and emptied regularly throughout the day and at the end of each day.
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