We are aware that there is a lot of confusion in the events world about recent government guidelines, especially relating to whether events are currently legal and, if so, what type and size. This blog post lays out how to interpret things.

The short answer is: Yes, businesses can currently hold COVID-19 Secure events of up to 30 people, including in conference venues.

The long answer is detailed below...

Which events can be held now?

According to the Coronavirus Regulations 2020, certain events can happen in one of two ways:

Firstly, events of any size are permitted if the gathering is "reasonably necessary" for work purposes. If it’s happening because it’s "reasonably necessary" it doesn't necessarily have to abide with government guidelines and no risk assessment is required by law.

There is no precedent on what "reasonably necessary" means. We do know, however, that the cabinet are not using this clause and and have put strict measures in place. Thus it’s reasonable to say that your event has to be more necessary than a face-to-face cabinet meeting to avoid the requirement for a risk assessment.

It is our interpretation that the bar for "reasonably necessary" is extremely high and that it should only be used in emergency circumstances.

Secondly, events can also happen if the gathering has been organised by a business, a charitable, or public body where the person responsible has carried out a risk assessment and taken all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of the coronavirus. For business events, the guidelines (although not the law) also give a limit of 30 people per event.

The devil is in the detail though as under current guidelines we are still told that “social interactions should be limited to a group of no more than two households (indoors and out) or up to six people from different households (if outdoors).” So while larger events can technically be held, they would not fulfil the requirement of taking all reasonable measures unless they limit social interaction to groups of two households only. In practical terms this means that only a limited set of event formats can run (e.g. board meetings, roundtables, training, drive-thru cinemas) as they do not require close social interaction between attendees, whereas most other events are not allowed unless “reasonably necessary” (e.g. networking events, receptions).

Government guidelines currently make reference to 10sqm per person distancing. We understand this related specifically to conferences and exhibitions, but is likely to be amended following pilots to take place in the coming weeks

The government guidelines have also announced that from 15 August, small wedding receptions will be able to take place, including sit-down meals, for no more than 30 people, subject to COVID-19 Secure guidance. There is no legislation in place for this to become legal, although we expect this in the coming days.

Further, all non-"reasonably necessary" events must also follow a risk assessment and measures such as those found in the Safer Events - A Framework For Action white paper.

Where can these events be held?

These events can be held anywhere, Live Performance Venues, Nightclubs and a short list of other less relevant venues, which remain closed by law.

These restricted venues will begin to open shortly with Live Performance Venues operating limited pilots. From 1st October Conference and Exhibition Venues are planned to be fully operational under COVID-19 safe guidelines. There is no proposed opening date for Nightclubs.

It is, of course, open to interpretation if an iconic historic venue which hosts conferences is a "conference venue" or a "tourist attraction", if a hotel with an exhibition suite is a "hotel" or an "exhibition venue", if a late bar that hosts live music is a "nightclub" or a "live performance venue". Or indeed if all of the above are instead "event venues". This is largely left to the interpretation of the venue and the organiser.

All this reinforces the importance of having a risk assessment and, ideally, independent safety accreditation in place. For venues this can be achieved via the Hire Space Safer Venues Accreditation and for Event Organizers this can be achieved via the Safer Event Organiser Accreditation. Both offer independent assessment and personally assessed online training and are open now for new applications.

And remember, whatever your event, everyone can go to the pub afterwards. 🍻😇🍻

References:

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 did, however, help draft some of the government guidelines for venue reopenings so we have a good idea of how the government is thinking.