In the UK, I want to know whether a government publication marked "Official Guidance" has any weight in statute law; and if so, which law(s)?

Specifically, I am referring to the following document: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-infection-prevention-and-control/covid-19-guidance-for-maintaining-services-within-health-and-care-settings-infection-prevention-and-control-recommendations

... although this is a wider question about other guidance. Basically, if somebody were to break this "guidance", then would there be any legal basis for prosecution?


1 Answer 1


I cannot recall an example where a breach of such guidance in-and-of-itself is an offence: it's when the underlying legislation is contravened that one is committed.

Note that the cited article say this:

this guidance is of a general nature. Employers should consider the specific conditions of each individual place of work and comply with all applicable legislation and regulations, including the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. This guidance does not supersede existing legislation or regulations across the UK

More broadly, and away from the NHS, the relationship between guidance and statute was examined in The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) v Arch Insurance (UK) Ltd & Ors [2020] EWHC 2448 (Comm) where adherence to social distancing measures impacted on safe working practices on building sites, causing delays and an increase in costs. The court determined that:

It follows that government advice or recommendations, whether before or after either set of Regulations came into effect, cannot have imposed or ordered a denial of access or a hindrance in access, however strongly worded the advice or recommendations were, since they did not have the force of law.

  • Thanks. Although this kind-of muddies the waters somewhat. The citation of the 1974 act does not make explicit that this guidance is directly derived from that: just that all applicable regulation must be considered, INCLUDING the 1974 act. I want to know explicitly which statute supports the legal force of this guidance. Mar 21, 2022 at 10:21
  • Thank you. So in a nutshell, someone can freely disregard this guidance and not face any legal consequences? Mar 21, 2022 at 12:08

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