The return of non-essential retail - How to safely reopen your shop

09 Apr 2021

On your marks...

When Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that non-essential retail in England will be permitted to reopen from 12 April, business owners breathed a collective sigh of relief.

It’s anticipated that the devolved governments will also allow most non-essential retailers to open in April, with one week’s notice to make the necessary reopening arrangements.  

Sadly, with so many familiar brands having gone into administration, the high street will look very different; however, some independent store owners are predicting a retail revival and have spent the latest lockdown investing in revamped premises and larger stores.

But each day that a shop remains closed increases the possibility that it might not reopen, costing jobs and damaging local communities. With this in mind, it is crucial that you are prepared to reopen smoothly, safely and without delay.

Get set...

Now that non-essential retailers have been given the green light, the message for employers is simple: don’t delay your opening plans, start preparing now. You may have been planning for this all throughout hibernation, but it’s important to act on the latest government guidance and to leave enough time to get organised.

Be sure you know where your business sits within each nation’s timetable and stay alert to government announcements, including any regional restrictions that may be introduced.

With reopening imminent, there are things you need to check now to ensure it goes as smoothly as possible. The starting point is to review your documentation, especially your COVID-19 risk assessment. This is a vital document, not least because it underpins the effective risk management of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace. It is also a valuable reassurance and education tool; you should communicate your risk assessment findings and the controls that have been introduced to your staff, and it may also be a good idea to tell customers about the risk assessment you have carried out, as this will give them confidence that you are COVID-secure.

Like any risk assessment, your COVID-19 risk assessment must be “suitable and sufficient”, and you shouldn’t rely on one you created right at the beginning of the pandemic as it may not be effective or compliant now.

It’s also time also to review your COVID-19 policy and the safety measures that will be in place, including social distancing, hygiene arrangements, wearing masks, arrangements for vulnerable workers, COVID testing and vaccinations, etc. Whilst less likely in a retail setting, you may have a staff member whose role can be done from home; this remains the advice where it is reasonable to do so.

The following is a basic retail reopening checklist:

  • Review your COVID-19 risk assessment.
  • Review your COVID-19 policy and arrangements, including testing and vaccination.
  • Check that your premises are ready to be reoccupied.
  • Rota staff in teams to minimise the number of different people individual staff work with – set up buddy systems where two people are required to work closely together.
  • Check the implementation of social distancing measures in the workplace (What have you learned from last time? Are there any areas where gathering may occur? Would better signage or rearranging the store help people to keep apart?).
  • Check your handwashing/sanitising stations are well stocked.
  • Clean and disinfect. Is there scope to implement a rota and cleaning checklist similar to those seen in workplace toilets?
  • Check PPE stocks – particularly masks and face coverings.

So, review your documents, remembering that things may have changed since your premises were last occupied. Be ready to share information with your workers and don’t forget, if anything needs ordering, do it now as there may be an unexpected lead time. 


For more expert advice on Employment Law, HR and Health & Safety to help you run your business smoothly, visit Bira Legal 

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