Last week, new government legislation came into force detailing the “3 Tiers” system for managing Covid infection rates.
The legislation says plenty that’s relevant to meetings and events, as has been the case for most new legislation since March. Alongside the government guidance, it spells out what we can and can’t do as event professionals in areas under Tiers 1, 2 and 3.
A disclaimer - We are not lawyers, and this is not legal advice. We strongly advise seeking your own legal advice before planning events.
- Business meetings and events of up to 30 people are allowed, across all tiers
- Exceptions to the "Rule of 6" exist for certain event types, e.g. where the event is "reasonably necessary" for work, education or training
- Professionally organised events larger than 30 people may happen if "Rule of 6" is adhered to (unless it's a business meeting or event)
- Local authorities have the authority to close premises or prohibit certain events
- The 15 person cap on weddings and wedding receptions remains
- The difference between the three tiers for event professionals isn't hugely significant. Focus is on limiting socialising, rather than further limiting organised events. Explanation below.
The Current Guidance
The Government’s guidance sits alongside the new legislation. Together, they comprise the rules.
Much of the government guidance relevant to events exists in the “Working safely during Coronavirus - guidelines for the Visitor Economy”. It applies to people who work in hotels and guest accommodation, indoor and outdoor attractions, and business events and consumer shows.
It is this guidance currently which currently puts a cap on business meetings of over 30 people (which we know from our recent survey of venues, makes things untenable for many businesses). It says:
And restates that "Business meetings and events of over 30 people should not currently take place in any venue."
We’ll come back to this though, because, as has always been the case, it doesn’t present the full picture.
The visitor economy guidance isn’t the only place you’ll find guidance relevant to events - there is also published guidance for small marriages and civil partnerships, performing arts, gym/leisure facilities and many more related things.
Keep an eye on the government's guidance on working safely during coronavirus. There are sections specifically for restaurants, pubs and bars, for indoor and outdoor attractions, heritage locations, performing arts and more. It’s where the government publishes a fair amount of its “events-related” content.
To understand this further, we recommend you do the Safer Event Organiser training, which will explain it all and keep you up to speed.
So … what does the actual legislation (as opposed to the guidance) say?
Here’s a link to the legislation. "The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Local COVID-19 Alert Level) (Medium) (England) Regulations 2020” (SI 2020/1103)."
It’s brand new. It came into effect on 14th October and supersedes previous legislation relevant to events in those areas of England where the local COVID-19 alert level is assessed as being Medium (Tier 1).
Other legislation has been passed for the High (Tier 2) and Very High (Tier 3) tiers in England, which act in tandem. We won’t cover these in detail here, because the impact on event professionals across the tiers isn't hugely significant. The key difference between Medium tier and High or Very High tiers is that, in the latter two, no indoor 'gatherings' are permitted. For outdoor gatherings, the "Rule of 6" still applies.
We expect many areas in England to jump across tiers in the coming weeks and months as infection rates rise and fall - for instance, London has just moved into Tier 2. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own rules.
The Rule of Six
The basic rule of six still applies generally, subject to a range of exceptions.
The legislation states that you can’t have any gathering anywhere in a group larger than 6 people, unless a relevant exception applies.
The exemptions to this are set out in Paragraph 3 of the legislation (the ‘exceptions paragraph’).
Worth mentioning that the new laws don’t change things much from more recent legislation. Legally, we’ve always had more flexibility than we’ve been told in the guidance and the government rhetoric - frustrating, but true, and still the case.
Permitted Organised Gatherings
This is the first relevant exemption, and applies to “permitted organised gatherings”.
There are two key requirements for a "permitted organised gathering":
- The event has to be on non-domestic premises or outdoor space operated by a business or a charity.
- Each participant either has to be alone or in a ‘bubble’ and must not mingle with other people. A ‘bubble’ is either six people or one household.
So - as long as you observe the “Rule of 6”, and hold the event at a professionally-run venue (if inside) or ensure it is organised by professionals (if outside), then there’s no cap on how many people you can have at the event. (As long as you are not holding a rave - which is covered in its own, separate section)
If you’re doing a “permitted organised gathering”, make sure it is Covid-secure and you have a proper risk assessment in place. The organisers will have to observe Covid-relevant precautions either under standard Health & Safety legislation or under the specific Covid regulations (see for instance SI 2020/1046 and 1005). Inevitably this may restrict your numbers.
So far, so good.
"Reasonably Necessary" Gatherings
Secondly, the rule of six does not apply to events reasonably necessary for work, education or training. This is detailed in Exception 3.
In theory you can hold an event for work, training or education purposes of unlimited numbers as long as the event is “reasonably necessary” for those purposes.
The question though, is what is meant by “reasonably necessary” for work or training/education purposes. In a world of virtual events, is it reasonably necessary to do a 200 person work event? Is it strictly necessary to showcase your new product to 50 buyers in a Covid-safe environment?
We’d argue yes, but then, we don’t make the decisions.
And remember, business meetings and events are still explicitly capped by the visitor economy guidance to a maximum of 30 people.
Does the new legislation say anything else interesting? As we know, weddings are capped at 15 people, funerals at 30 but funeral wakes are limited to 15 people.
Organised protests are ok, many outdoor sports are ok, taking the tube isn’t the same as going to an event, and it is illegal to organise indoor raves for more than 30 people. Or to organise gatherings of more than 30 people in private homes.
Regulation 6 requires events organisers in most cases to conduct risk assessments and take all reasonable anti-covid measures, taking into account any government guidance.
And there are specific exceptions around Remembrance Sunday.
So … where does that leave us?
The Role of Local Authorities
We expect local authorities to play a more active role going forward. They will often be the arbiters of what is and isn’t appropriate at the time.
The guidance states:
Local authorities should avoid issuing licences for events that do not comply with COVID-19 Secure Guidelines and which could risk compromising social distancing and lead to mingling between groups of six and should provide advice to businesses on how to manage events of this type.
Local authorities have been given power to close premises (SI2020/750). These regulations include powers for local authorities to:
- restrict access to, or close, individual premises
- prohibit certain events (or types of event) from taking place
- restrict access to, or close, public outdoor places (or types of outdoor public places)
So keep them apprised of your plans.
Ultimately, what will we be suggesting our clients might do?
Every business is different, but we focus on the following things.
- Remember the spirit of things - there’s no need to go wild at the moment, so do what you think is sensible, and that people will want to attend
- Always do full risk assessments of your proposed event. And put the safeguards in place.
- Talk to your local authority.
- Keep doing events, creatively, with a hybrid live/virtual element - and shout about it on social media to build confidence.
- Demonstrate you are Covid-safe, also to build consumer confidence. Hundreds of event professionals are currently becoming accredited across Hire Space's independently-certified scheme, which you can find out about here if you're a venue, and here if you're an organiser.
And finally, hold tight. This isn’t permanent. Events will be back.
We will continue to lobby directly to the government for further support and clarity, and to keep you updated through the Safer Events - A Framework for Action white paper and online @hirespace.
Register For EventLAB
We are so excited to announce that registrations have now officially opened for EventLAB 2020 Online taking place on 28th October and 11th November. Check out the agenda and register now to secure your place!
Health Protection (Coronavirus, Local COVID-19 Alert Level) (Medium) (England) Regulations 2020” (SI 2020/1103). https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/1103/made
The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 2) (England) Regulations 2020 https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/684/contents
PM press conference statement: 9 September 2020 https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-press-conference-statement-9-september-2020
Coronavirus (COVID-19): Meeting with others safely (social distancing) https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-meeting-with-others-safely-social-distancing/coronavirus-covid-19-meeting-with-others-safely-social-distancing
Coronavirus outbreak FAQs: what you can and can't do https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do
The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Bolton) Regulations 2020 https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/974/pdfs/uksi_20200974_en.pdf
The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 3) Regulations 2020, Section 5, Statutory Instrument No. 684, 4th July 2020 https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/684/regulation/5
The Explanatory Note to The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 3) Regulations 2020, 4th July 2020 https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/684/pdfs/uksiem_20200684_en.pdf
The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 3) Regulations 2020, Statutory Instrument No. 750, 17th July 2020 https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/750/contents/made
Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) The Visitor Economy https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/the-visitor-economy
Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) Performing Arts https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/performing-arts
Disclaimer: We aren't lawyers and this isn't legal advice. We do not take responsibility for the content in this blog. Always check with your lawyer.