On May 25th, the Government announced further easing of Covid19 restrictions. These include allowing non-essential shops to open in June - provided business owners have carried out necessary risk assessments and are confident in being able to meet their obligations to protect staff, customers and others.
Who can open?
Outdoor venues, such as garden centres, car showrooms and market stalls are expected to be open from June 1st. Other non-essential retailers, such as those selling clothes, electronics and books are scheduled to open from June 15th.
Some businesses, including the hospitality sector, hair and beauty remain closed. The Government issued a list of which businesses can and can’t open if unsure.
What laws have changed?
Nothing has changed for owners of business - the law remains as it was-you have a responsibility for ensuring the safety of your customers, staff, yourself and the general public in any business activities you do. This includes proving safe workplaces, safe products and safe working practices and complying with the Equalities Act 2010 (see below)
How do I make my workplace Covid19 secure?
The Government has introduced 5 steps to working safely
- Carry out a COVID-19risk assessment following the guide for shops and branches and display the accompanying poster at your premises.
- Develop cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures following guidance on decontamination and cleaning
- Help people to work from home.
- Maintain 2m social distancing, where possible.
- Where people cannot be 2m apart, manage transmission risk.
12 top tips for small retail businesses to be COVID19 safer
- Deep clean premises before re-opening, increasing ventilation where possible (eg open windows, improve extraction)
- Increase handwashing and sanitizing and increase cleaning on high contact areas (eg door handles and baskets)
- Adopt “No contact” policies - use contactless payment, have a “no touch” drop off/pick up area for returns and collections.
- Minimise customer numbers in the shop, work with neighbouring businesses/local authority where needed to allow floor signage outside the shop if appropriate. You must not disadvantage customers with protected characteristics (eg not allowing a customer with a support worker to enter under a “one in one out” policy)
- Consider the use of appointment systems and staggered opening times/hours.
- Minimise customer contact on display products. Revise displays, and promotions to limit contact and maintain social distancing.
- Where handling takes place (eg trying on an item), either sanitise or remove the item for 72 hours before returning to sale.
- Limit “pinch points” within the shop by removing some display items if needed.
- Regulate high traffic areas, such as doorways, and consider one-way systems.
- Consider delivery times, including reducing ordering frequency/increasing stockholding
- Precautionary use of additional PPE face coverings to prevent COVID 19 is not recommended in non-clinical settings, staff should continue to use the expected level of protective equipment.
- Keep up to date on the latest Government guidelines for safer working.
Your obligations under the Equalities Act during Covid19
The Equalities Act 2010 protects individuals from discrimination should they possess a protected characteristic defined under the law. It is a concern that Covid19 can have a disproportionate impact on people who may fall into this category, either directly from the virus itself or indirectly as a result of social distancing measures.
The obligations of a business owner are no different during the Covid19 outbreak as they would be at any other time and so consideration must be taken when making any adjustments to working practices as a result of a risk assessment. This applies to changes both relating to staff, customers and the general public. It also includes individuals who have been shielding from the virus due to being in a high-risk category.
This may mean clinically vulnerable employees or those with caring responsibilities have additional support, such as working from home or altered shift patterns. The EHRC have guidance for employers with advice about reasonable adjustments during the pandemic.
In making alterations for customers it is important that allowances be given to the additional needs those who possesses a protected characteristic so that they are not unfairly discriminated against. This may include-
- Allowing a carer to accompany a customer under a “one in one out” policy
- Support for visually impaired individuals with assistance dogs unfamiliar with directional floor markings
- Availability of hand sanitiser and regular cleaning of touchpoints (eg braille notices, grab bars)
- Signage in additional languages to support a local demographic.
More general information on the Equalities Act in retail is available.
Remember, if you have retail premises and have not had grant support under the business rates schemes, check eligibility and contact your local authority online to see if you should apply.
Here at EnterprisingYou we can support the self-employed and gig economy workers of Greater Manchester. For more personalised advice, please sign up our programme.