Consumer facing businesses are putting in place operational plans for life after the removal of restrictions on 19 July, amid rising case numbers.
We spoke to a range of our clients in the retail sector to discuss overall feelings and concerns on 'Freedom Day' and what these mean for those that operate & work in retail.
Retailers and hospitality providers are currently waiting for further guidance and clarity from the government or the Health and Safety Executive. Some of the concerns include gauging employee worries and comfort levels (some mask-wearing employees are frustrated if they are required to serve customers that are not wearing masks), and ensuring that transmission levels/the number of staff having to self-isolate are minimised as much as possible.
After 19 July, retailers will be monitoring their position week by week and adjusting accordingly to employee and customer needs, engagement and safety. Retailers will therefore need to adopt a degree of flexibility and agility as it will be challenging to control customer behaviour. At present, the retail and consumer clients that we spoke to are adopting a relatively cautious and risk-based approach planning to take the following measures:
- Customers will be encouraged to wear masks; however, it will not be mandatory.
- Depending on the business's risk assessment and the working environment, employees may be required to wear masks where needed. The discussion highlighted that several retailers are choosing to mandate wearing masks for employees.
- The majority of Perspex screens will remain as they are inobtrusive and provide employees with comfort that they are being protected when engaging with customers that are not wearing masks.
- However, it was noted that the combination of masks and Perspex screens can cause communication difficulties which could give rise to separate risks such as complaints from customers with hearing impairments.
- Many retailers will encourage social distancing where possible, however this will not be mandatory for customers.
- Depending on the business's risk assessment and allowance for space, retail employees may be required to maintain social distancing when engaging with customers, and when in communal staff areas, to reduce risk of transmission and avoid employees getting 'pinged' by the test and trace system.
- The retail and consumer clients that we spoke to acknowledge that they will not be able to control or enforce customer social distancing.
NHS Track and Trace App
- Some clients we spoke too are not opposed to asking employees to turn off the NHS Track and Trace App when phones are in lockers or communal areas, or in areas where screens sperate employees.
- From 19 July, customers will be encouraged to use the app in-store, however, this will not be mandatory.
- Careful consideration needs to be given to capacity and resource planning in the event of a number of employees or casual workers being asked to self-isolate.
Hygiene and Sanitising Stations
- Regular cleaning and hygiene measures will remain in place.
- Hand sanitiser and sanitising stations will remain with no change.
Signage and Communications
- Our retail and consumer clients are trying to find the right balance of softening the current signage from measures being 'mandatory' to 'encouraged' and create an atmosphere of 'keeping customers and employees safe' through a spirit of cooperation.
- Some businesses will look to increase workplace testing if it minimises the risk of transmission by asymptomatic colleagues.
The overall feeling/outcomes from retail and consumer clients is a focus on controlling what you can control, but also recognising that customers are already focused on freedom. If retailers can minimise risk for employees and customers, then this should be the preferred course of action.
Our suggestions for businesses:
- Use layout signage and engagement to encourage customers to moderate their own behaviour and look out for everyone in-store.
- Use a tailored Risk Assessment and direction to employees to mitigate risk through continued use of measures around social distancing, masks, hygiene, sanitisers, screens, testing and use of the App.
- Engage with employees to find out which safety measures they would like to see remain in-place or be abolished.
Our employment and risk specialists have also recorded an on-demand webinar that provides further guidance on key issues that businesses should consider as 'Freedom Day' approaches.
At Foot Anstey we have dedicated team that can support, advise and help navigate retail businesses through the next steps of easing restrictions. You can find our services here.