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As the UK begins to take steps to ease lockdown, the Government has announced that non-essential retail can re-open from 12 April providing the premises is COVID-secure. It is vital that shops follow the latest guidance and take any necessary steps to ensure they can trade safely and protect their staff and customers as they return to Britain’s retail outlets.

There are a number of things to do to prepare your retail premises to be COVID-secure before reopening. Going through the Government guidance can be daunting, so we have put together this article which holds key information on preparing your business for COVID-secure reopening and provides links for further detail. We look at:

4-step roadmap revealed by the Government to lift restrictions

The Government has prepared a carefully planned timetable for lifting restrictions to help people including retail business owners, so that meticulous planning for reopening can be implemented. However, it must be stressed that the Government will be meticulously analysing the data as we take each step towards reopening and depending on how things unfold, the timetable may be subject to change.

You can find more about how the 4-step plan impacts retail businesses here.

Things to do before reopening your retail premises after lockdown

For any business that has been closed or even those in partial operation, the first step is to make an assessment of your retail business. This will include the introduction of cleaning procedures and ensuring you have plans and strategies in place, and have taken appropriate action to conform to all the Government guidelines relating to social distancing and the health and safety of your staff and customers.

Carry out a risk assessment to ensure your retail business is as safe as possible

As an employer, you have a legal responsibility to protect your employees and those who visit your premises from risk to their health and safety. This means thinking about the risks they face and doing everything reasonably practicable to minimise them. As a retail business owner, you already assess for several risks such as slips and trips but now you must make sure that the risk assessment for your business also addresses the risks of COVID-19. The Government and the Health and Safety Executive have both released guidance which should be used to inform your decisions and control measures.

The risk assessment for COVID-19 should be a separate document that sits outside of any normal day to day business risk assessments.

Remember it is not about creating huge amounts of paperwork, but rather identifying and implementing sensible measures to control the risks in your premises.

Click here for the Government’s full guidance on making the workplace secure.

Click here for the Health and Safety Executive’s guidance for businesses on how to manage risk and risk assessment at work.

Click here for the Health and Safety Executive’s guidance for help to control the risk of coronavirus in workplaces.

Create a dialogue with your staff about safety measures

Both the Government and the Health and Safety Executive guidance highlight the importance of talking with your employees and involving them in the measures you are taking to manage the risk of coronavirus. These could include an explanation of the measures, ensuring that they will be functional and listening to employees’ ideas so that your retail business will continue to operate safely.

Other considerations for your risk assessment should include:

  • Applying social distancing (keeping people 2m apart)
  • Increasing the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning
  • Use screens or barriers to separate people from each other, for example at the counter
  • Ensuring staff and customers wear appropriate face coverings, unless exempt
  • Working with the minimum number of people possible to operate efficiently
  • Protecting staff who are at higher risk
  • Staggering arrival, departure and break times
  • Providing signage as reminders
  • Consideration of how people can travel to work
  • How staff move around – aisles, stairs, lifts
  • Review of the use of common areas – toilets, rest and eating areas, changing facilities
  • Increased cleaning frequencies
  • Use of company vehicles including vans
  • Any PPE equipment required

If you have not already done so, you should carry out an assessment of the risks posed by the virus in your workplace as soon as possible. You should share the results of your risk assessment with your employees and the Government has provided a notice which should be displayed in the workplace to show you have followed the guidance. Completing and sharing the results of a risk assessment will not only give your employees confidence to return to the place of work but also reassure your customers too.

Managing your customers in-store to maintain 2m social distancing rules

The objective is to minimise the contact because of visiting retail businesses. Steps that are recommended by the Government are:

  • Defining the number of customers that can reasonably follow 2m social distancing within the store and any outdoor selling area. Consider the total floorspace as well as potential pinch points and busy areas.
  • Implement a queuing system at 2m spaces outside with barriers if necessary
  • Have a separate entry and exit point where possible
  • Limit the number of customers in your store
  • Ensure the use of appropriate face coverings by staff and customers, unless exempt
  • Assess the size and layout of your shop to calculate the number that can come in at any given time to reasonably follow the 2m rules
  • Place clear signage and visual aids inside and outside of your shop to explain social distancing rules and floor stickers to indicate where customers should stand
  • Minimise congestion wherever possible with a one-way flow
  • Work in liaison with adjacent shops to manage queuing

Prioritising the hygiene and cleaning of your retail premises

Your aim will be to minimise contact that results from a customer visit to your retail business. Measures need to be implemented alongside safety requirements such as the Health and Safety at Work regulations. When considering the hygiene and cleaning of your shop so that it is safe for customers, provide hand sanitation dispensers where possible and identify any key touch points including the keypads of payment machines, counters and doors.

Further measures you can take to protect your customers in your retail shop

  • Leave larger spaces between displays and less density of stock
  • Close every other till
  • Restock and replenish outside opening hours
  • Encourage cashless purchases
  • Leave doors, excluding fire doors open
  • Remove or limit customer seating

Managing your workforce to keep them safe

Earlier in this piece, we looked at undertaking a risk assessment and how communicating with staff during this phase will give confidence to return to work when you reopen.

The best way of managing your staff safety beyond the risk assessment is to ensure that all your staff are fully aware of and understand the social distancing measures that have to be in place for the foreseeable future. They must know how they personally can support these and that they apply to all parts of the shop such as rest areas and non-customer facing spaces.

Keep your staff safe by introducing the following measures:

  • Communicate Government messages regularly and visibly (verbally/in writing)
  • Ensure multi-person contact points such as door handles and counters are cleaned regularly
  • Facilitate regular breaks for staff to wash and/or sanitise their hands
  • Carry out advanced and deep cleaning of all work areas
  • Stagger shift starts and break times to avoid overcrowding
  • Arrange rotas so that the same staff work together where possible
  • Have sufficient PPE equipment available including masks, gloves and visors if required
  • Ensure staff do not share equipment, even pens
  • Encourage staff to bring in their own food
  • Space out seating in rest areas

You will need to support your staff by making the right decisions for a safe return to the workplace by instilling confidence and demonstrating clear leadership.

What do you do if retail workers cannot return to work?

You may have workers who cannot return to your retail business for several reasons and a return to work is not possible straight away. Perhaps they are still on furlough or maybe they are deemed as vulnerable and are still required to remain at home. Some may be unfortunate enough to be suffering from lingering symptoms of coronavirus infection. It will be important to listen and be empathetic to staff who fall into any of these brackets and try to be as flexible as possible.

The Track and Trace system may affect your staff and mean that they are unable to come to work. If they are contacted by the NHS Test and Trace service due to recent close contact with someone who has tested positive with coronavirus, they will have been told to begin self-isolation for a number of days. This is required even if they are not feeling unwell. As an employer, you should support workers who are told to self-isolate and must not ask them to attend work.

Click here for the guidance on the service for employers, businesses and workers for more information.

What do you do if a staff member develops coronavirus symptoms?

If an employee develops coronavirus symptoms, they should return to the workplace and should be self-isolating at home. If they are already at work and notify you that they have symptoms, the employee should go home.

If someone with coronavirus comes to work, the workplace does not necessarily have to close but cleaning advice should be followed. Click here to see advice for cleaning the premises.

If you are claiming for an employee who is eligible for sick pay due to coronavirus you should check if you can claim back Statutory Sick Pay.

See more information on the Government’s website.

For further information on preparing your retail business for reopening, please visit the following:

What can The Retail Mutual do for your business?

The Retail Mutual understands that this is a difficult time for retail business owners, particularly those who own businesses that have had to remain closed for an extended period. However, it is important that your retail business is ready for businesses whenever it has the green light to be open. The Retail Mutual is here to protect independent retailers with an alternative to insurance for your business, home, and landlord property. Our team is available to talk through your cover needs – just call 0333 2121 280 or start your quote online.

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