Business owners urged to take action now to be ready to reopen safely

Published: Friday, 29th May 2020

Oxford City Council is urging business owners to take action now to so they are ready to operate safely as restrictions on trading for some begin to lift.

In addition to those businesses still permitted to trade, the Prime Minister announced on Monday that all non-essential retailers will be able to operate from 15 June provided sufficient progress is made in controlling the virus.

Since before the lockdown began Oxford City Council has been advising businesses across the city, signposting them to government rules on who can trade, advice on how to prepare for reopening and what measures are needed to keep staff and the public safe.  With a clear timeline now set for many retailers, the council is urging business owners to make preparations and seek further help and advice if needed.

Government guidelines, titled Working safely during Coronavirus, have been issued for eight sectors of the economy setting out which businesses can open and what risk assessments and safety measures must be implemented.  This applies to businesses allowed to open now and those preparing for a phased re-opening in coming weeks.

What should business owners do?

Business owners should review the latest guidelines and carry out the necessary re-assessment of their trading operations and premises.  This will help identify what changes they need to make to trade safely and be compliant with the new legal requirements.

For all sectors, ensuring social distancing for staff and customers is the priority to keep people safe.  The new guidance covers matters such as use of personal protective equipment (PPE), managing access to buildings and services, cleaning the workplace and workforce management.  Careful consideration must be given to the management of customers queuing inside and if necessary outside, so as not to disrupt other pedestrians or conflict with neighbouring businesses.

For workplace health and safety all businesses are governed by the same legal standards enforced by either Oxford City Council or the Health & Safety Executive depending upon the nature of their business. Each of these enforcing authorities will provide further advice and support if required, as well as working to investigate and take action on any breaches.  

For health and safety advice contact the Health & Safety Executive in the first instance on 0300 003 1647 or online through

Oxford City Council’s Business Regulation Team can be reached on 01865 252862 or Further information is available on the website. The team deals with Food Safety and Health and Safety across local authority enforced premises.  

How is the council supporting business and keeping the public safe?

The council has responsibility for enforcing health and safety regulation in around 1,800 businesses across Oxford, such as shops, warehouses, markets, cafes and offices. 

Environmental health officers have been advising registered food businesses such as takeaways and food delivery. As well as hygiene standards they have had to introduce new measures to respond to the risk of the coronavirus. The team continues to monitor activity, including spot checks, surveys and unannounced calls to discuss their safety practices.  

The team has also provided their food safety expertise to city council and voluntary groups to ensure safe food standards and coronavirus measures are in place when providing emergency food supplies such as food parcels and meal deliveries.

Officers are also working to ensure that health and safety at work measures are maintained.  This includes safe staff distancing within a store and management of customers inside and while queuing.

Reports of breaches are being investigated and action will be taken to issue notices prohibiting poor practices and requiring improvements to be made.

Concerns about a business operation can be reported to the council by contacting the Business Regulation team on 01865 252862 or email

“We need a vibrant local economy and we are working to support businesses to re-open, but we also need to ensure that employees and the public are kept safe.

 “Every business must take these actions: Review the latest government guidelines relevant to their business, assess their business operation and respond by making any required changes.

“If a business needs advice in how to interpret or implement the government guidelines, we are here to assist.

“Equally, if anyone is concerned about what an employer or business is doing, report it and we will investigate to ensure we keep people safe

“We need people to support local businesses but they need to feel safe to do so. We are working with Oxfordshire County Council on a range of measures. This includes allocating more road space to pedestrians and cyclists, pedestrianising roads and an enhanced cleaning regime – to ensure people can move safely around Oxford city centre when shops do reopen.”

Councillor Mary Clarkson, Cabinet Member for the City Centre, Covered Market and Culture