Coronavirus (COVID-19): latest guidance on workplace canteens and breaks

Date : 29 May 2020

As more people are being urged to return to work (where home working is not practical), new guidelines provide some direction for employers and their catering partners to support a safe return to work.

Natasha Maynard
Nutrition and Scientific Affairs Manager

Current UK government guidance allows workplace canteens to stay open where necessary: LINK.

  • As far as reasonably possible, a distance of 2 metres should be maintained between users
  • Staff can continue to use rest areas if they apply the same social distancing
  • Notices promoting hand hygiene and social distancing should be placed visibly in these areas
  • If possible, increase the number of hand washing stations available

“Where there are no practical alternatives, workplace canteens can remain open to provide food for their staff. However, where possible, the government advises that staff should be encouraged to bring their own food, and distributors can move to takeaway. Employers are encouraged to take measures to minimise the number of people in the canteen, for example by using a rota.” LINK

New guidance on working safely during COVID-19

As more businesses look to reopen, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has issued new guidance to help employers, employees and the self-employed understand how to work safely during the coronavirus pandemic LINK


In May, the government published guidance for UK employers to help them get their businesses back up and running and workplaces operating safely.

The advice remains that businesses should continue to take reasonable steps to help people work from home but those that can’t work from home are now being actively encouraged to return to work. 

The guidance covers eight workplace settings which are allowed to reopen and sets out practical steps to make workplaces as safe as possible and give people the confidence to go back to work during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Workplaces that provide breakrooms or canteens should review current facilities and operations and consider additional measures to maintain social distancing while using common areas, such as: 

  • Staggering breaktimes 
  • Using safe space outside for breaks
  • Creating additional space by using other parts of the workplace or building that have been freed up by remote working
  • Providing packaged meals or similar to avoid fully opening staff canteens
  • Encouraging workers to bring their own food
  • Reconfiguring seating and tables to maintain spacing and reduce face-to-face interactions
  • Encouraging staff to remain on-site and, when not possible, maintaining social distancing while off-site

The Food Standards Agency has also developed a checklist tor food businesses re-opening during COVID-19. It includes advice on planning and preparation to start-up; site, equipment, ingredient and product checks, as well as social distancing measures to consider LINK


The Food Standards Agency has developed a checklist to support food businesses to reopen safely during COVID-19 after a period of inaction.  

Although it is clear that “business as usual” is not envisaged, these guidelines will provide some direction for businesses to support a safe return to work. Such changes will require close co-operation between employers and their catering partners.

Looking for more insight?

  • Get the latest insights on Coronavirus (COVID-19) to help your business understand what the food and grocery industry is doing around the world to address the evolving pandemic.
  • To find out how IGD is working with the food and consumer goods industry during coronavirus, visit our dedicated webpage

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