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Do I need Employers’ Liability for my restaurant business?

The hustle and bustle of a restaurant, obviously we are talking pre-COVID times. With chefs prepping, slicing, dicing, flame grilling, roasting, boiling and bubbling, while waiting staff scuttle in and out of the kitchen, carrying hot food, pouring drinks and taking orders. It sounds like a recipe for disaster!

As a restaurant owner, it is your responsibility not only to serve the best food in town but to provide your kitchen and front of house team a safe working environment. Even with the correct safety protocols in place, accidents can still happen; it only takes a split second for a member of your team to injure themselves and you could be served with an Employers’ Liability claim.

It is vital that you have some type of insurance or an alternative form of protection for your business. Your restaurant cover should include Employers’ Liability as a legal requirement, which will protect you if an employee falls ill or is injured as a consequence of working at your restaurant. In this article, we look at what Employers’ Liability is, how to identify the risks in your restaurant and how to minimise the risks to keep all your employees safe.

What is Employers’ Liability

Employers’ Liability (EL) cover is a type of cover you must have if you employ any staff. This is outlined in the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969. Employers’ Liability is designed to protect you if an employee suffers an injury or falls ill and decides to make a claim against your business. It includes full or part-time employees, contractors, temporary staff, casual workers and volunteers. It should be noted that you might receive a significant fine if you do not have Employers’ Liability cover.

What is the law regarding Employers’ Liability

  • It is a legal requirement to have Employers’ Liability if you have any employees, including full or part-time employees, contractors, temporary staff, casual workers and volunteers
  • You must have at least £5 million in Employers’ Liability cover
  • Employers’ Liability must be provided or backed by an authorised insurer or cover provider
  • You can be fined up to £2,500 for each day you do not have Employers’ Liability and £1,000 if you do not have a valid Employers’ Liability cover certificate, which will need to be available when requested

Health and safety in restaurants – identifying the risk

All restaurants should carry out regular health and safety risk assessments. This involves looking at your restaurant business and identifying potential hazards that could cause injury or illness to your staff and customers. Here are some of the incidents that could impact your kitchen staff or front of house team:

  • Cuts from handling sharp objects
  • Slippery or uneven floors causing slips, trips or falls
  • Dangerous machinery and equipment
  • Injuries from lifting
  • Crowded workspace risks
  • Burns and scalds from hot food liquids, oils or cooking equipment
  • Food safety including food poisoning or bad food hygiene
  • Bumps or bruises from knocking into furniture, fixtures or other members of staff

Minimising the risk of injury or illness to staff in your restaurant

By having the right equipment, protocols and staff training in place you will be able to limit risk and reduce the chances of accidents happening. But if something unexpected or unforeseen occurs to a member of your staff, a contractor, temporary staff member, casual worker or volunteer, make sure it is recorded in your accident book and you have Employers’ Liability cover in place.

Here are a few things you can do to help minimize risks:

  • Make sure your team are fully qualified and that their health and safety training is up to date
  • Wash hands regularly to prevent infection and to comply with food hygiene standards
  • Wear protective clothing, such as aprons, heat-proof gloves, cooking uniforms and rubber gloves
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces
  • Clean and mop up spills as you go
  • Wear rubber-soled shoes to help prevent slipping and falling
  • Adopt best practices for body posture – include training and advice
  • Take regular breaks between busy periods
  • Read manufacturers’ instructions for the safe use of products and equipment
  • Maintain suitable lighting levels
  • Check electrical items regularly and don’t leave wires trailing as these could be a trip hazard
  • Make sure your first aid kit is easily accessible and check it frequently
  • Work as a team to carry out risk assessments

COVID-19 and keeping staff safe at your restaurant

The pandemic has meant that, when permitted to open, restaurants have had to be even more thorough regarding cleaning and sanitising equipment and frequently touched areas. The wearing of protective equipment such as face masks helps to prevent the spread of infection. It is essential that you carry out a full COVID-19 risk assessment to determine the strict safety protocols that need to be followed to keep staff in your restaurant as safe as possible and that you are always up to date with the very latest Government guidance.

In many cases restaurants have had to adapt their business model to offer takeaways in order to keep going if they are forced to close. It is important to make sure your restaurant is compliant and to implement the correct procedures for the way that you are trading.

Follow the Food Standards Agency (FSA)’s guidance on good hygiene practices and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) processes

If a member of your staff shows any symptoms of coronavirus, including a new, continuous cough, a high temperature or a loss or change in normal sense of smell or taste, they shouldn’t report for work. Anyone handling food should wash their hands with soap and water regularly for at least 20 seconds. Ensure your restaurant follows the FSA’s guidance on good hygiene practices and HACCP processes.

Keeping your kitchen and front of house team happy and productive

We have talked a lot about safety and some of the physical risks that could occur in the workplace but working in a restaurant can also be a stressful and tiring job. If your team are spending long hours on their feet, dealing with customers and multitasking, it can lead to poor concentration or employee dissatisfaction, which in turn can result in mistakes or accidents. Try to empower your employees and show them that you have their best interests at heart.

Here are a few things you try to motivate your team and boost morale:

  • Provide or fund regular training for your employees, not only to enhance safety but also to boost their customer service or culinary skills
  • Remember a clean restaurant is a happy one; less mess means less stress
  • Give regular praise and encouragement to your staff to help keep them motivated
  • Provide a dedicated break area or staff room, somewhere they can rest or step away to for a few minutes
  • The customer isn’t always right but it’s still important to listen; teach your staff how to handle customer complaints
  • Working in a kitchen is stressful and things can get heated; ensure your team have access to anger management and stress relief training or information
  • Encourage an open dialogue with your team and allow them to express any thoughts or concerns they might have with you
  • Team building or out-of-work activities are a great way to bond and boost morale

How can The Retail Mutual offer you an alternative to Employers’ Liability insurance for your restaurant

With small business owners under intense pressure to reduce overheads and minimise risks, The Retail Mutual sets out to offer an alternative to insurance. This includes up to £10 million Employers’ Liability protection as part of our business cover offering for restaurants. Because running a restaurant is not a 9-5 job we offer restaurant owners the flexibility to obtain a quote and buy cover outside standard office hours through our online quotation service. Click here to start your quote. If you would prefer to talk to one of The Retail Mutual’s UK-based team, call 0333 2121 280 to discuss your options.

At The Retail Mutual, we understand the importance of keeping your employees and your business safe, which is why we have created a free, downloadable risk assessment guide. In the guide we explore the health and safety of your employees and other risks that may be present in a catering business, including electrical equipment and fire hazards, as well as providing helpful tips and advice for minimising risk and enhancing safety.

Download your free risk assessment guide below!


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