Government restrictions designed to slow the spread of coronavirus have significantly affected high street retail and hospitality businesses – with many retailers, cafes, restaurants, and bars forced to close or adapt their operations to offer takeaway or delivery services only.
It’s a challenging time and there are a number of important considerations to keep in mind – from employee and customer safety, and securing premises during temporary closure, to insurance and government financial support.
A recent Marsh webcast set out the latest guidance around a number of these issues for retail and hospitality businesses, the main points of which are detailed below.
Employee and customer safety
Government advice on social distancing applies to everyone. With that in mind, it is vital that retail and hospitality businesses adopt a range of measures to protect staff and customers – from signage and floor markings to regular safety announcements to help maintain a distance of two metres between individuals
Some specific guidance for businesses operating with customers on the premises includes:
- Be aware of social distancing – maintain the “two metre rule”.
- Use markers outside and at till points to set out two metre intervals.
- Restrict access to your premises to ensure only one customer is on site at a time.
- Encourage home delivery and online payments (click and collect).
- Offer specific time slots for elderly or vulnerable customers.
- Ensure the cleanliness of baskets, trolleys, touch screens (self-serve) etc.
- Ask customers not to touch stock and return it to shelves.
Employee safety is just as important, so the latest guidance also sets out steps you can take to protect their health while at work or serving the public. That includes using personal protection such as facemasks and visors, disposable gloves and coveralls, and increasing the frequency of cleaning routines - with a particular focus on high traffic risk areas like door handles, push bars, glass, and door edges.
Similarly, retail and hospitality businesses are advised to minimise cash handling where possible. Ideally, you should encourage contactless payment and remove the £30 limit – and, where cash handling is unavoidable, collect in a bowl and use gloves.
Finally, encourage staff to follow a clear personal hygiene routine. Make plenty of soap and disposable towels available and ask staff to change and wash clothes as soon as they arrive home from work.
Home working and mental health
Meanwhile, many businesses have responded to government restrictions by asking staff to work from home – but employers still have a responsibility to look after the well-being of their employees. Some practical steps you can take to help your people work from home safely include:
- As far as practical, undertake risk assessments for homeworkers and check they have access to equipment such as external keyboards.
- Ensure employees working from home inform their home insurance provider of their change in circumstances.
- Encourage staff to report incidents and ill health, and keep a record.
- Look after home workers’ mental health, for instance by setting up regular communication networks such as WhatsApp groups, and running mindfulness or remote group exercise sessions.
Adaptation and diversification
Many smaller retail and hospitality businesses, like restaurants and cafes, have adapted their businesses during the coronavirus pandemic – for instance, establishing takeaway and delivery services. Government advice is in place to help these businesses continue trading while observing social distancing rules. They include only taking orders by telephone or online, staggering collection times, and using queue management to maintain social distancing. Read further information for those offering takeaway services.
Guidance for those establishing delivery services includes:
- Ensuring people doing deliveries have made their motor insurers aware.
- Making your insurers aware that your business is doing deliveries if it was not previously.
- Providing employees with a letter to confirm they are undertaking “essential travel” to work or on deliveries.
- Encouraging social distancing during deliveries.
- Taking photographs of deliveries rather than asking customers to sign for them.
Securing unoccupied property
If your business has been forced to close temporarily, it is vitally important you do not simply lock the doors of your premises and walk away. There are a number of steps you should take to protect your premises while they are unattended – to avoid incidents that could disrupt re-opening or harm already stretched finances.
First of all, it is important to notify your insurer that your property will be temporarily unoccupied and to follow any requirements and recommendations made by your insurer. Failing to do this could leave your premises uninsured. It is worth noting to that many insurers have extended the period that a property may be unoccupied under existing commercial property insurance – you can access the latest updates from a range of insurers here.
There are also a number of sensible precautions you can take in order to minimise the risk to your property while it is unoccupied. They include:
- Setting up mail redirection and sealing any letter plate aperture(s).
- Nominating key holders and passing their details to any alarm monitoring centre as well as local police and fire service, and checking all keys are accounted for.
- Removing all waste and refuse.
- Ensuring existing automatic fire detection, sprinkler systems, intruder alarms, and CCTV are in good working order.
- Checking or installing external security lighting and ensuring interior lighting is appropriate.
- Making sure existing perimeter barriers are in good repair, and accessible windows or potentially vulnerable access points have been suitably protected.
You can also keep up-to-date with the latest UK Government advice on Coronavirus by visiting gov.uk/coronavirus. For advice to businesses in other nations of the UK, guidance is set by the Northern Ireland Executive, the Scottish Government, and the Welsh Government.
Further advice from Marsh Commercial
For our latest news and guidance on the Coronavirus epidemic, visit our resource centre which will be updated regularly as the situation develops, so please check back often for the latest material.
If you are a client and have any questions, please contact your usual Marsh Commercial account executive. For everyone else, please use our general enquiry form.