June 22, 2020

The “New Normal” – is your business ready?

Coronavirus (COVID-19), leisure and retail businesses

It is fair to say that the recent lockdown arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic has knocked the UK economy for six. Many businesses have been unable to trade at all for some time now, and others have lost their regular customer base. Some however will have prospered. 

The good news for businesses, and the economy, is that the restrictions imposed to combat the virus are slowly softening, and many businesses across a number of sectors are now able to reopen (or soon will be) with staff returning to work. Outdoor markets, car showrooms and other shops have now been able to open. But how will workplaces need to adapt and what safeguarding measures will businesses have to take? It will not be business as usual for many, but hopefully with planning, proactivity, and good management, trade will resume successfully. 

Health and safety 

Businesses clearly have obligations to keep staff, and the public coming into contact with the business, safe from harms such as Covid-19. 

Aside from the obvious need to limit the spread of the virus, it is essential that businesses have a documented plan in place in case the Health and Safety Executive or local authority wishes to inspect and or challenge your systems. If they consider your practices to be unsafe, they could issue improvement or prohibition notices. Such action could seriously harm the business. 

Employment law 

In terms of employment law, mistakes could prove expensive and result in employers having to face claims under whistleblowing and discrimination laws or breaches of employment contracts. Potential pay-outs could be costly, at a time when businesses can least afford it. 

To try and limit such issues, businesses should: 

  • Carry out a Covid-19 focussed workplace risk assessment
  • Set up and Implement a safe system of work following the risk assessment 
  • Keep the risk assessment under review 
  • Review employment contracts and policies and amend as necessary 

Commercial law 

Whilst a key focus should be on the team, and the workplace, what about trade? 

Has your supply chain been impacted? Carry out regular supplier contract reviews – can costs be saved here? How have lead times or prices been affected? Would additional finance such as a bounce back loan be helpful? Is now the time to secure additional suppliers who are perhaps closer geographically? Will this impact on exclusivity agreements? In terms of customers, are there likely to be changes to their habits or needs? For example, if you operate a high street retail business, how will you draw people back from new online shopping habits? Do your terms and conditions need an overhaul? What do they say about pandemics hindering trade? Are disputes on the horizon?

Summary 

Whilst the thought of reopening may seem daunting, and some of the above may uncover difficulties, this is a great time to get to know your advisers and carry out reviews of your business practices, employment documentation, and supply contracts (particularly if you might previously have been putting it off), so that your business is prepared for the interesting times to come.  

For advice on what you need to address to deal with the “new normal”, contact Ben Ironmonger on 01590 676933 or email him at ben@scottbailey.co.uk. He can help you approach the future with renewed confidence.