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Social gatherings of more than six banned – your refund rights for holidays, activities and more

Most social gatherings of more than six people have been banned in England under the 'rule of six' in a bid to combat rising coronavirus cases, with similar restrictions imposed in Scotland and Wales. Here's info about how holidays, activities and more could be affected and your refund rights.

Groups larger than six aren't able to meet for social purposes either indoors or outdoors – though schools and workplaces are exempt, as well as weddings, funerals and organised team sports (as long as they're carried out in a "Covid-secure" way). You can find a full list of exemptions in England on the Government website - and you're also still able to gather together if your household or support bubble has more than six people.

Previously, guidelines in England said that up to six people could meet outdoors, while up to two households of any size could meet indoors. But the police only had the power to fine people for "illegal gatherings" of more than 30 people. However, police can now fine those who participate in gatherings of more than six people. Fines are £100 for a first offence, then doubling for every further offence, up to a maximum of £3,200.

For more info on coronavirus restrictions and your rights for cancelled events, subscriptions and more, see our Coronavirus Life-in-Lockdown Help guide.

What if I've booked a holiday for more than six people?

The new rules don't affect single households or support bubbles of more than six people. So if you have a UK trip booked with just members of your household or support bubble, this should still be able to go ahead even if there are more than six of you. 

But if your trip is for multiple households with more than six people in totalm you now are not legally able to gather or stay together in the UK – whereas previously, for example, two families of four would have been allowed to go on holiday together. 

The good news is in this situation you SHOULD be able to get a full refund - and all the major UK holiday firms we've spoken to have confirmed they are paying out. Here's a summary of what they told us:

Company Can I get a refund? What is it offering?
Butlin's TBC Waiting to hear back
Center Parcs Yes Anyone affected can change booking date or receive full refund up to 4wks before arrival Yes Contacting affected customers, initially those travelling in next 3-4 wks, to offer a full refund, voucher to move to a later date or option to reduce party size
Haven Yes Anyone affected can move booking to later date or get a full refund
Hoseasons Yes Contacting affected customers, initially those travelling in next 3-4 wks, to offer a full refund, voucher to move to a later date or option to reduce party size
Landal Green Parks Yes Contacting affected customers, initially those travelling in next 3-4 wks, to offer a full refund, voucher to move to a later date or option to reduce party size
Sykes Cottages Yes Those affected can move booking to new dates with no amendment fee, or get full refund. Says it's currently prioritising bookings up to 11 Oct - we're checking about later bookings
Warner Leisure TBC Waiting to hear back

If your holiday provider refuses to offer a refund, whether you're legally entitled to one isn't entirely clear-cut.

When we asked the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy about consumers' refund rights in this situation, it pointed us to guidance from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which says that consumers should get a refund if they cancel or can't use a service because of Government health measures. 

As the new six-person rule is a legal restriction (unlike the previous rules on households staying together, which are guidelines) and consumers could face a fine if they break the law in order to use their holiday booking, the CMA guidance suggests they'd be owed a refund. 

But it's important to note CMA guidance isn't a definitive interpretation of the law, and this is a new scenario which hasn't been tested – so while you can point your holiday accommodation provider to the guidance, complain to the CMA or even pursue legal action, there are no guarantees you'll get a refund.

Another option would be to try your travel insurer if you can't get a refund directly from your accommodation provider, but this will likely depend on your policy.

What are my rights with childcare?

Formal childcare with a registered provider is exempt from the six-person limit, so you can still use your usual childcare provider if this applies to you. And children's playgroups are also unaffected by the new six-person maximum.

Schools are exempt, and you can also continue using "wraparound" childcare, such as after-school clubs, breakfast clubs and sports clubs. Your children can also continue attending youth groups and other children's activities.

If you have an informal childcare arrangement – for example, a family member or friend regularly cares for your child – you can carry on doing this, but the six-person rule still applies if they're not in your household or support bubble. Children of all ages are included in the six-person limit in England.

What are my rights if I've a wedding planned?

Weddings have been listed as an exemption to the six-person limit on social gatherings, so if your wedding is coming up this shouldn't affect you. You still have to comply with existing rules about weddings though – including a maximum limit of 30 people for wedding ceremonies and sit-down receptions, and a ban on celebrations in private homes and gardens.

If you have to postpone or change your wedding as a result of coronavirus restrictions, our Wedding Refund Rights guide sets out your options.

Up to 30 people can also attend funerals, and "religious life-cycle ceremonies", which could include christenings or bar mitzvahs. However, you can't have a 30-person reception afterwards, as this exemption only applies to weddings and civil partnerships.

What are the rules on meeting in other parts of the UK?

Coronavirus guidance differs across the UK. The rules are complicated, and there are some caveats to them, so it's best to check the advice for your specific scenario in England, ScotlandWales or Northern Ireland.

Generally, the guidance says:

  • In Scotland, up to six people from a maximum of two households are allowed to meet indoors or outdoors – though children under 12 aren't counted in the six-person limit. Social distancing should always be maintained.
  • In Wales, up to four households are able to join together to form an extended household – though now you can only meet indoors in groups of up to six people, excluding children under 11, from within your extended household (even if there are more people altogether in your extended household). Up to 30 people can meet outdoors, with social distancing.

  • In Northern Ireland, up to six people from two households can meet indoors in private homes, and up to 15 people can meet outside. Social distancing should be maintained.

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