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Introduction

The Welsh Government has made law which governs the operation of Wedding businesses as part of the response to the Coronavirus pandemic. The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 2) (Wales) Regulations 2020 and other guidance on the law.

The current regulations allow wedding ceremonies to take place in approved and licensed premises up to the capacity of the venue given social distancing requirements. There is guidance on wedding ceremonies. They also allow for Covid-19 safe wedding receptions to take place for up to 30 people. This applies to both outdoor and indoor receptions at the current time. It is allowed to conduct a reception at a venue which has not held the wedding ceremony itself. However, both the reception and the ceremony must take place on the same day. Wedding businesses have duty under the regulations to:

There are a range of guidelines which would apply to your business and these are augmented by the content of this guidance which is designed to help you to meet your obligations, assess your premises and practises, and make your business COVID-19 safe. As an employer, you have the legal responsibility to protect workers and others from risk to their health and safety. This means you need to think about the risks they face and do everything reasonably practicable to mitigate them, recognising that risk management does not eliminate but instead minimises risk.

This means you need to undertake a risk assessment for your individual premises and work activities, assessed against the relevant guidelines referenced at the start of this document. The examples in this advice document are to help you to translate these into areas that may be relevant to your business, and any measures that are taken should fit appropriately with the operational needs of your business as well as relevant legal requirements.

The Welsh Government has produced advice on COVID risk assessment. There is also guidance for the visitor economy and also detailed guidance for hospitality venues developed by UK Hospitality Cymru. You should consult on, and share, the results of your risk assessment with your staff and colleagues either directly or via employee or Union representatives. HSE has guidance on worker involvement which may be helpful.

This guidance does not supersede any legal obligations relating to health and safety, employment or equalities and it is important that as a business you continue to comply with your existing obligations, including those relating to individuals with protected characteristics. It contains non-statutory guidance to take into account when complying with these existing obligations. When considering how to apply this guidance, take into account agency workers, contractors and other people, as well as your employees.

Registrars or other third parties involved in the event may wish to assure themselves of their safety by considering the risk assessment. Copies of the assessment should be offered in these circumstances.

Protecting everyone

Social distancing

At the heart of the measures to tackle Coronavirus is the need to maintain 2 metre physical distance between everyone who does not form part of the same (extended) household. The mitigating actions and protocols you put in place must ensure that all reasonable steps are being taken to maintain this distance. These might include;

  • reducing the number of people on the premises at any one time - increasing the space between people by reducing the total number of people in attendance, and changing the layout of premises or furniture to support this
  • controlling use of entrances, passageways, stairs and lifts
  • controlling the way people walk around premises
  • controlling the use of shared facilities such as toilets as kitchens
  • increasing space between staff and between staff and attendees – for example indicating spacing with markings
  • Increasing the space between attendees - for example by positioning tables differently.
  • considering appropriate provision of rest space – is there a congregation of workers or visitors at a certain time?  Could additional space be provided, or breaks staggered?
  • altering tasks undertaken – making adjustments to the way that work is done, to reduce contact
  • staggering shifts to minimise people on site and to reduce congestion at the point of shift changes

However, whilst it is always preferable, it may not be possible to maintain 2 metre distances at all times. This might, for example, include staff waiting table service. In these circumstances, it is important that other measures are taken. The most obvious measures to take are anything which reduce close face to face interaction and to improve hand washing, avoidance of touching the face with unwashed hands, respiratory hygiene and cleaning. Examples include:

  • more frequent cleaning, in particular of shared facilities such as toilets and kitchens
  • minimising loud noises which will require people to shout
  • avoiding close face to face interaction, for example by:
  • seating people back to back or front to back
  • erecting physical barriers or screens between people.
  • wearing appropriate protective equipment such as three-layered face coverings which comply with World Health Organisation (WHO)guidance

Hygiene

Good hygiene is vital to the reduction of transmission. All handwashing should always be in line with Government guidelines regarding method and the 20 second length of washing. All staff should wash their hands when arriving at work, as well as before handling or eating food, or after blowing noses, coughing or sneezing, or going to the toilet. You should consider providing more bins for used tissues to support good respitorary hygiene

Communications to staff should remind everyone to wash their hands or use a suitable hand gel at the start of every shift and at regular intervals to interrupt the chain of transmission. Hand sanitiser could also be placed in multiple locations in addition to washrooms.

Cleaning regimes and hygiene standards

A strong and effective cleaning regime and hygiene standards are one of the most crucial parts of your risk assessment, and therefore your ability to operate safely.

  • reviewing your incident and emergency procedures to ensure they reflect the physical distancing requirements as far as possible
  • using signs and posters to build awareness of good handwashing technique, the need to increase handwashing frequency, avoid touching your face and to cough or sneeze into a tissue which is binned safely, or into your arm if a tissue is not available
  • providing regular reminders and signage to maintain hygiene standards
  • providing hand sanitiser in multiple locations in addition to washrooms
  • setting clear use and cleaning guidance for toilets to ensure they are kept clean and physical distancing is achieved as much as possible, guidance on providing safer toilets
  • enhancing cleaning for busy areas and common touch points
  • use of portable toilets should be minimised and special care should be taken for cleaning of portable toilets where they are in place
  • use of physical distance marking for other common areas such as toilets, staff lockers and changing rooms and in any other areas where queues typically form
  • providing more waste facilities and more frequent rubbish collections
  • providing hand drying facilities – either paper towels or electrical dryers

Post wedding cleaning

After the wedding a ‘deep clean’ of the venue should be undertaken. This will include, but not be restricted to the:

  • wiping down of all surfaces.
  • wiping down of all door handles/light switches/toilet flushing handles
  • sterilisation of all catering equipment
  • safe disposal of any non-reusable PPE

Particular attention has to be paid to the cleaning of all Multi-Touch Points in communal areas and elsewhere.

Test, trace and protect

Test Trace and Protect is an important mechanism to control outbreaks of the virus. The virus can only sustain itself through transmission between humans. Knowing who, those who have caught the virus may have spread it to, gives us the chance to isolate the virus through self-isolation of the individuals. The latest Welsh Government guidance links on Test, Trace & Protect can be found below, with information on business obligations, and if customers or guests display symptoms or test positive.

You must read these guidelines and at all times implement Test, Trace & Protect measures and related practices in your venue:

Staff, suppliers and other third parties who may attend on the day must be included in the TTP register. Attendance

Attendance at a wedding should be by invite only and is subject to the maximum cap of 30 guests for the wedding reception element. Staff and third party suppliers (such as Registrars or professional musicians) are not included in this restriction, except where social distancing requirement reduce the venue specific capacity below this number.

Those experiencing coronavirus symptoms listed below should not attend:

  • new continuous cough
  • high temperature
  • loss of or change to your normal sense of smell or taste (anosmia)

Those who are from a household that is self-isolating should not attend nor should those who have been contacted by Test Trace and Protect and advised to self-isolate.

The advice for those who are extremely vulnerable, or in an increased risk group continues to be that they should minimise their contact with others for their personal protection. However, they may decide to attend despite the additional risk this poses to them and should be facilitated to do so.

Supporting staff

Training

Training should be given to ensure that all staff understand the new risks, and should include details on social distancing requirements, routes of transmission and the importance of hand washing and surface disinfection at key times. All staff should be instructed about not coming to work if they have a high temperature, new continuous cough or the loss of taste or smell. They should stay at home for seven days (or for as long as prevailing guidance dictates).

Staff return and fitness to work

It is recommended that businesses should carry out a return to work conversation, with staff for example for those returning from furlough. HSE has guidance on talking to employees about Covid-19 (pdf). This should be carried out for all staff returning to work in the work environment, to ensure staff safety.

Clinically extremely vulnerable individuals have been strongly advised not to work outside the home. Clinically vulnerable individuals, who are at higher risk of severe illness, have been asked to take extra care in observing social distancing and should be helped to work from home, either in their current role or in an alternative role. If clinically vulnerable (but not extremely clinically vulnerable) individuals cannot work from home, they should be offered the option of the safest available on-site roles, enabling them to socially distance from others. If they have to spend time closer than the social distance to others, you should carefully assess whether this involves an acceptable level of risk.

As for any workplace risk you must take into account specific duties to those with protected characteristics, including, for example, expectant mothers who are, as always, entitled to suspension on full pay if suitable roles cannot be found. Particular attention should also be paid to people who live with clinically extremely vulnerable individuals.

You should also provide support for workers around mental health and wellbeing. See coronavirus for people who have symptoms and those who live with others who have symptoms.

People who need to self-isolate

The current advice is that individuals who are advised to stay at home under existing government guidance do not physically come to work. This includes individuals who have symptoms of COVID-19 as well as those who live in a household with someone who has symptoms and those who are advised to self-isolate as part of the government’s test trace and protect programme.

Enable workers to work from home while self-isolating if appropriate. See current guidance for employers and employees relating to statutory sick pay due to coronavirus. See current guidance for people who have symptoms and those who live with others who have symptoms.

Advice for staff outside the work setting

Staff are a potential source of transmission. A general commitment to hygiene should be regularly communicated to staff, including transmission threats outside of the workplace, infection and quarantine guidelines, and actions to reduce risk of infection in the home.

Staff protection

All Welsh Government advice should be adhered to with regard to protection of staff from COVID-19 and actions to limit risk of transmission. This will include developing cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures and maintaining social distancing, where possible. Below are some suggested control measures to consider as part of your risk assessment and development of risk management procedures. Please note this list is not exhaustive.

The most important thing is to remember the routes of transmission, and to work out what actions are most effective in your business.

  • Heightened cleaning and disinfection to disinfect all frequently touched areas in staff areas such as tables, chairs, counters tills, card machines, etc.
  • For staff break areas or canteens, stagger timings so that groups of staff have slots to come for their meals to reduce gathering.
  • In office or admin areas, many people could be sharing the phone, keyboard, mouse, and the desk.  If these items are shared, they should be cleaned using your usual cleaning products before being used, and cleaning products should be made available for this purpose.
  • Make sure that the social distancing rule applies at smoking or vaping breaks
  • Wash items in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Use the warmest water setting and dry items completely. There is more control if laundry is carried out in-house or professionally, rather than staff taking it home.

Protective equipment

Whilst the use of Personal Protective Equipment, such as face masks, may offer reassurance, it is not as effective as the maintenance of physical distancing and hygiene. There is a risk that the use of PPE would provide a false sense of security which would reduce adherence to good practises in these regards. COVID-19 is a different type of risk to the risks you normally face in a workplace, and needs to be managed through social distancing, hygiene and fixed teams or partnering, not solely through the use of PPE. Workplaces should establish procedures which encourage distancing and hygiene and not rely on the precautionary use of PPE to protect against COVID-19. The Government advises that unless you are in a situation where the risk of COVID-19 transmission is very high, your risk assessment should reflect the fact that the role of PPE for staff in providing additional protection is extremely limited. Government guidance on face coverings.

Managing the event

Identified responsible person – Covid secure wedding or event manager

Wedding parties have, internationally, been the source of Covid-19 outbreaks. It is reasonable to assume that this results from the social mingling and practises, such as singing and dancing, which would commonly form part of a reception but during the Pandemic pose a particularly high risk due to aerosol transmission. It is your responsibility to your staff, guests and the wider community to manage the event in a way that reduces the risks.

 For this reason it is essential that you have an identified responsible person both for the conduct of the risk assessment and development of protocols and for ensuring implementation and adherence to the Covid-19 safe practises you have developed on the day of each wedding. Whilst this may not be the same person every time, it is essential that there is effective communication between the individuals carrying out this role.

On the day the responsible person COVID secure event manager should address any matters which undermine the mitigating actions and procedures which have been developed. For example, prevent and challenge mingling between (extended) households and ensure guests do not become intoxicated to the point that they cease to follow distancing or other measures you have put in place. This might be communicated through members of the wedding party, but it should be remembered that the duty to provide a Covid secure event is now an additional expectation on your business.

Communication

One of the great advantages of wedding venues are the very strong communication links between couples, guests and suppliers and the venue.

  • Guests should be provided with information which sets out the procedures and protocols which apply on the day.
  • The venue should get agreement from guests that they will comply with the rules and that they accept the fact that in order to keep everyone safe they may be asked to leave if these rules are not adhered to. This can be done before the wedding and can be integrated into the “registration “process. This will encourage guests to “self-monitor” and an understanding that the venue will need to intervene if they do not.
  • The TTP requirements are set out above and a register of attendees must be made by the venue. This can take the form of an online pre-registration of guest attendance to support the tracing process. This must be supported by registration of actual attendance as below.
  • They must confirm that they recognise social distancing and other rules to protect against the spread of COVID 19 will be in place at the venue.  If they are attending they confirm they will abide by these rules and understand that should they not abide by them the venue will have the right to ask them to leave.
  • Additionally they should provide confirmation of compliance with the processes after the wedding.

Opportunity for continued communication or reminders throughout the event

  • WhatsApp or other digital technology may be used to create a Wedding Group App prior to the event. Using the App guests will be able to communicate with the venue management so as to minimise face to face communications.
  • Guests will be invited to join the WhatsApp group prior to the wedding and met by staff in the venue car parks to check membership of the group and add if missing.
  • Whilst it is for the responsible person or COVID secure event manager to raise issues, such as social distancing not being adhered to during the wedding, Apps may be used to offer reminders of the protocols and procedures that have been put in place to keep everyone safe.
  • Other opportunities to remind guests politely about social distancing may occur – at the ceremony, at speeches, after dinner when announcing first dance
  • Any guest not complying with the agreed social distancing requirements of the wedding due to intoxication should be respectfully asked to comply with the requirements and drinks served restricted or denied.
  • If intoxication is identified as a potential risk then a member of the staff will consult with the Client and identify an acceptable solution.
  • Drinks service may be restricted or denied and guests failing to comply with the reasonable requests of the Event Manager may be asked to leave the property.

Once the event has finished guests are asked to finish their drink and say their good-byes in a reasonable timescale, and an announcement by staff to remind everyone that despite temptation social distancing must be adhered to. Non-resident guests are required to leave site within 30 minutes of the end of the wedding. Resident guests should return to their rooms once the wedding has finished. If other parts of the venue have open bars you should consider how to separate the use of the wedding venue and the bars as part of your risk assessment. You should also consider how people might transition at this stage of the day. You may wish to consider closing bars to maintain the necessary control across the venue.

Arriving at the venue

2m social distancing remains the default position, however where social distancing can’t be maintained between staff and guests, staff should increase the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning, keep the activity time involved as short as possible. Where appropriate and achievable, consider screens between staff and guests/visitors in communal areas. Collateral and complementary items should not be offered, in reception areas. Below are further points to consider:

  • Communicating, though signage and/or other means, explanations of social distancing rules and additional hygiene measures in place to protect guests and staff.
  • Make clear in visible posters and other communications the extra measures that are being taken, to offer reassurance.
  • If you have a doorperson present, use them to ensure that guests observe social distancing, for example, if there is a queue for the reception desk at entry to the venue.
  • Make sure all reception staff, guests and visitors have access to sanitiser at the desk, as well as throughout the venue and that staff use this between welcoming guests.
  • Floor markings or other physical indicators, where implementation is appropriate and achievable, will be used to act as visible reminders of social distancing requirements. Where possible, one way systems should also be used.

The ceremony and movement around the venue

  • Seating plans for each individual event should need to be drawn up to ensure guests remain within their (extended) households during the ceremony. The ceremony will need to comply with all social distancing rules. 
  • The wedding space should be designed in a configuration that facilitates compliance with the requirements of reasonable social distancing for example one way systems
  • Guests attending a Civil Ceremony will be seated in family groups/persons from the same (extended) household, with a space between each group.
  • Background music at a low-level volume can be played during the ceremony itself, however singing, chanting or dancing is not permitted.
  • No greeting lines will be permitted, unless it is possible with all guests maintaining social distancing throughout. There will be no physical contact between the couple and their guests, unless they form part of the same bubble.
  • Wedding photographs, wherever possible, will be taken outdoors.
  • Photographers must comply with social distancing. All photograph setup will need to respect the social distancing rules, and the photographer should factor this in to their planning of the event. We would also recommend only one photographer allowed per event.
  • As current rules stand, close group shots are not permitted unless organised in (extended) households.
  • Mingling between (extended) households must be avoided. Your design of the venue should address this. Including providing table service only with no buffets permitted.
  • Speeches should be allowed as normal. No sharing of microphones, and passing out gifts will not be permitted during speeches. Volume levels to be kept to a reasonable level so guests do not have to raise their voices.
  • Gift tables should only be used where hygiene arrangements and social distancing allow breaks in potential transmission. Cake tables and the distribution of the wedding cake should be managed with the same disciplines that would apply to the general catering approach
  • No dancing should be allowed during the reception but a specific exception can be made to allow a ‘first dance’, for the couple themselves. The parameters for this should be that appropriate social distancing between the couple and guests should be possible during the dance. Circles shouldn’t be formed except where distancing between households can additionally be maintained. Accompanying music should be played in a way that does not encourage guests to sing along, shout or to raise voices to maintain conversation as these are high risk activities.  
  • As long as social distancing between households can be maintained there is no need to put a time limit on an event. However, it would be sensible to consider the time exposure of staff such as those waiting the table service as part of your risk assessment. In particular with how the time of exposure plays out against the ability to maintain a 2 metre distance and the mitigating actions that can be taken for staff, such as additional hygiene or other arrangements.
  • Whilst loud music, be it recorded or played live, should be avoided, it would be possible to have unamplified live music performed by a socially distanced group (such as a string quartet) as a background. Blown instruments should not be played. Solo singers would be allowed but screens should be considered where it is not possible to protect against droplet transmission by additional distancing.
  • Outdoor activities are generally safer than indoors and protocols and plans should consider what activities can be moved outdoors. Where this is not possible good ventilation should be used wherever possible. 

Food & Beverage service

For venues that will be offering a food and beverage service, a specific part of your risk assessment must be developed to ensure employee and customer safety. This should include social distancing controls and how payments and any cash transactions should be made. All staff should receive training and the plan refreshed regularly. If you are using outside catering or agency staff, ensure they are also fully trained and aware of the risk assessment for your operation.

  • Provide table service only for both food and beverages
  • Ensure wedding events have a specific designated area for eating and drinking, with customers being seated at their designated place to eat and drink. Discourage guests from moving around the venue and remaining at their designated space.
  • Signage on the entrance to the premises could include:
    • Details of any access or movement restrictions (e.g. one-way systems).
    • Customers to wash their hands before moving between sections or use hand sanitiser station provided.
    • Requirement to adhere current social distancing requirements.
    • Customers not to enter if they have COVID-19 symptoms
  • ‘Goods in’, if using the same entrances as guests, to be received before or after guests, preferably a back of house delivery and similar care taken to cross contamination and social distancing. Marked social distance for deliveries. Frequent cleaning and disinfecting, extra attention to touch points, door handles and services.
  • Potential pinch points should be identified and monitored as part of the overall risk assessment in your operational plan.
  • Social distancing should be maintained between customers at tables
  • Your risk assessment should include reference to customer toilets, and monitoring of their use to ensure compliance with social distancing requirements.
  • Toilet areas should be regularly monitored and disinfected including frequent disinfection of high-frequency touch points in bathrooms and toilet areas.
  • Contactless or room account payments should be used whenever possible.
  • Customer contact with collateral such as menus, trays, napkins etc. should be limited to what is necessary or designed in such a way that cleaning or replacement is carried out after each use
  • Methods to define social distancing must be considered and applied. For example, use of floor distance markers, barrier systems etc.

Services supporting the event

Waste disposal

Contact your waste contractor to advise them of any changes in your procedures, such as increased frequency of collections. Consider additional litter bins on your premises to encourage customers to dispose of their own waste. This will reduce the need for staff to touch items that have been left or touched by customers, as well as reducing littering on and around your premises.

Lifts

Consider minimising lift usage in the venue, and advice for safer use of lifts throughout the venue can be advised in pre-wedding communications and in-building signage and staff communications. Current Government advice states reducing maximum occupancy for lifts, providing hand sanitiser for the operation of lifts and encouraging use of stairs wherever possible.

Advice to staff working in wedding venue kitchens

  • Kitchen management is challenging, and will require planning and rearranging. See current Government guidelines regarding distancing in kitchens
  • As wedding business is different, a detailed plan for the individual site and kitchen should be developed as part of your overall risk assessment, reviewed and communicated to all staff.
  • In kitchens, continue to use your regular cleaning regime as usual, and at the end of the shift you may want to go over all hand touch surfaces one more time before closing.
  • You could include guidance regarding the number of people allowed in the chilled stores or dry stores at one time, keeping to social distance requirements, or the changing rooms / staff toilet areas.
  • Use a dishwasher (if available) to clean and dry used crockery and cutlery. If this is not possible, wash them by hand using detergent and warm water and dry them thoroughly, using a separate tea towel.

Other considerations

Air-conditioning:

  • consider air filtration – review latest guidance, keep spaces and rooms well-ventilated
  • where possible and appropriate, natural ventilation solutions to be applied

Suspected COVID-19 cases in your business

Cleaning after a suspected contamination

Whether an infection is confirmed or suspected relating to your premises, there is specific guidance that should be followed which includes how to deal with cleaning venues safely. A link to this government guidance.

Be aware that guidance can change, so always check the government sites if a case arises in your business.

It pays to make a plan for this eventuality before it happens and to make sure that you have the cleaning products you need. You also need to make sure that your staff are trained on new procedures.

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