Here are the headline announcements from the Chancellor’s Spring budget:
The furlough scheme will continue until the end of September 2021. In July, employers will be required to pay 10% of wages to employees, increasing to 20% in August and September.
Self Employed grants will continue, with one grant to cover the February – April period, and a final one to cover the period from May onwards. An additional 600,000 claimants are now expected to be eligible following submission of February’s tax returns.
The National living wage will increase from April
A new Restart Grant will be introduced to help closed businesses reopen. Those in non essential retail, currently due to open on April 12th will be eligible of a grant of up £6k.
Later opening businesses, including hospitality, hotels, gyms, as well as personal care and leisure firms will receive grants of up to £18k.
A new recovery loan scheme will introduced, guaranteed to 80% by the government, offering between £25k and £10m.
The business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses will continue until the end of June, then rates will be reintroduced at lower interim rate.
The 5% reduced VAT rate will continue in the hospitality sectors until September, followed by an interim rate of 12.5% until the end of April 2022.
Contactless payments limit increased to £100
Personal income tax thresholds will be raised as planned in 2022, and then held until 2026.
Alcohol and fuel duties continue to be frozen
Corporation tax will increase in 2023. The most profitable companies (profits £250k+) will pay 25% corporation tax, tapering down to 19% for businesses with profits of £50k or less.
Companies will be able to carry back losses over three years to enable greater tax rebates for struggling companies.
In this chapter, we think about the hazards and risks you identified in your risk assessment and use them to create and implement a plan to make your workplace safe. The first step is to:
Control the risk
Consider all elements in your risk assessment one by one. For each of them, you should aim to ELIMINATE the risk whenever possible, by using the preventative measures described in part 1 – examples could include:
Monitor staff infection levels. Ensure that you have a clear reporting method for any staff that have covid symptoms, and that staff and managers are aware that any suspected cases must remain away from work premises as per government guidelines.
Introduce a clear social distancing policy that details how staff and customers should act whilst on your premises.
Eliminate shared equipment: create individual named kit for every worker and specify how this kit is kept apart from others’.
Introduce clear zoning, so that each worker has their own obvious workspace and customers have clear instructions about where to go and what routes to follow. Enforce this with bold wall and floor signage and visual cues such as colour coding
Close areas of congregation – this may mean that staff are not able to use on site facilities such as canteens if you are not able to provide adequate space for social distancing.
Outsource elements of production if you cannot safely undertake them in-house.
Quarantine non-perishable items that come into your business for a 72 hour period. For perishable items, you could create a suitably temperature controlled quarantine area as long as you are able to operate within use by dates
If you are unable to ELIMINATE any of your identified risks, you must take adequate steps to MINIMISE them. This might include:
Regular cleaning schedules for equipment that has to be shared by workers, ensuring surfaces are sanitised between each use.
Wear face coverings in circumstances where social distancing is not possible. This should apply to both staff and customers, except in the case of exemptions
Provision of shields between workspaces if individuals are not able to work at least 2m apart
Staggered breaks and work schedules to minimise the number of staff on premises at any point in time.
Handwashing remains one of the single most effective ways of reducing infection levels, so on top of any measures identified above, you must ensure staff have regular assess to clean, hot water and soap and are encouraged to use it on entering the premises and before and after touching surfaces and objects, on top of the normal levels of handwashing required to maintain good hand hygiene. Provide sanitising stations for customers and encourage their use, particularly in businesses where customers do not have access to handwashing facilities. Our guide to handwashing best practice provides a useful reminder of effective technique.
Please note – the lists above are not definitive. It is important that you work through your own environment and processes and think carefully about the risks and appropriate controls for your specific situation.
Record your findings and implement them
Add the control measures to your risk assessment document and put everything in place to ensure they take place.
A vital part of this step is COMMUNICATION. In order for your control measures to be effective, everyone must understand their role in the process and carry it out. The best approach to communication is to start with a discussion that allows workers to ask questions and gain a good understanding of your new control measures. Follow this up with a simple written document that allows them to remind themselves of the process, and use simple, bold signage within the workplace to remind them of the most important details as well as communicating any rules your customers must follow.
During the communication stage, do not be afraid of feedback given by staff – listen to what they have to say. Their understanding of some work processes may be greater than yours, or they may have more effective ideas of how to deal with the risks. It may be useful to revisit your plans in light of feedback – working in a collaborative way that recognises the contribution of others is more likely to result in an effective plan that the whole team can work with.
Review your assessment and update if necessary
In light of the rapidly changing situation with Covid-19, you will need to monitor and review your measures on a regular basis to ensure their effectiveness. Some measures, such as staff absence levels should be monitored on a daily basis, in order to identify and deal with any unusual spikes as quickly as possible.
Observe your control measures in action. Do they eliminate or minimise risk in the way that you intended? Do they introduce other, unintended risks (for instance – does increased handwashing create congregation points at sinks?)?
Keep lines of communication with staff open, seek and listen to their feedback and be prepared to adjust control measures if they are not effective. Whilst this is a period of adjustment and is unsettling for everyone, demonstrating that staff and customer welfare is of genuine concern can have a positive long term effect within your workforce, and protect your future business.
Bear in mind that you may need to adjust your plans according to the situation in your local area. Check the government websites for local restrictions:
Including Covid-19 in your workplace risk assessment
As we are now facing a new risk, workplace risk assessments need to be updated to include covid-19. In this chapter, we look at the first two steps of the risk assessment process – Identifying the hazards and assessing the risk.
Employers should already be familiar with the risk assessment process, as they are legally responsible for protecting their employees from harm – failure to do so can lead to prosecution, fines and even prison sentences. If you need a reminder of how to undertake a risk assessment, follow this link to the Health and Safety executive, or work through the Safer Food Group’s Level 2 Health and Safety course for a more detailed understanding.
Identify the hazards
Hazards are processes, environments or physical objects that may cause harm. In the current climate, you will need to consider a new environmental hazard – the transmission of a highly contagious virus that has the potential to cause serious harm to a large percentage of your workforce and customers. This could be within your business premises, or outside of your premises if you despatch goods or send people to work elsewhere.
Record this process in writing, either in addition to your normal workplace risk assessment, or as a specific document that addresses Covid-19 as an individual risk. This template, created by The Food Standards Agency in Scotland, is a great starting point if you need some help.
Assess the risk
In other words- how likely is the hazard to occur, and how much harm could it cause?
Unfortunately, in this case, the hazard could cause very significant harm. In business terms, you could experience a depletion in your workforce meaning you cannot continue day to day business, or you could transmit the virus to your customer, damaging your reputation. In personal terms, anyone who contracts the virus may be at risk of a considerable period of sickness, long term health effects or even death.
Using the information in part 1 about methods of transmission, think about the ways the virus can enter and be transmitted around your business. As we have seen, Coronavirus is particularly resistant and robust, surviving both in the air and on surfaces; this is one of the reasons it has become such a dangerous disease.
Consider any person or object coming into your premises as a potential carrier of the disease and think about their journeys as they move around your premises. At what stages in these journeys do these people or objects come into contact with other people or objects? Do workers share equipment, touch the same surfaces, work within a small area?
In your risk assessment, write down all the instances in which a person touches a surface or object that might have been touched by someone else – whether handling stock, ingredients or finished goods, sharing equipment or working in a shared workspace. Consider all of the times within a working day they may be in close proximity to a colleague or customer – don’t forget to think about break times, and periods before work when staff may gather to get changed or access leisure areas, rest areas and lockers.
As part of your assessment, you will need to understand if some people are at greater risk than others, either because of the job that they do, or because of their personal characteristics. Current guidance suggests that no specific groups of the population are unaffected by coronavirus, and as such you must consider all members of staff at risk. However, it is sensible to consider extra measures for those specifically identified as vulnerable, as discussed in part 1. Add this information to your risk assessment document, so you remember to look at each group individually.
Sector specific guidance
The UK government has produced comprehensive guidance for various sectors to help in the risk assessment process. We have provided links below to those of most relevance to the Safer Food Group’s customers, but to view all sector specific guidance to working safely during the pandemic, use this link: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19. These guides also contain sector specific regulations that relate to businesses in England (see part 3 for links to regulations in devolved UK nations)
Since the emergence of the pandemic, we have been bombarded with information from all directions – press conferences, official guidelines and new legislation, media reports, industry advice… the list seems almost endless. The purpose of this series of posts is to present the key information to help you keep yourself, your colleagues and your customers safe in your workplace.
We look at the virus and its impact on our daily lives, then examine the steps you need to take to minimise the risks it poses. We signpost key pieces of expert information that relate to specific sectors, as well as links that will allow you to keep yourself updated with the latest regulations and legislation in your UK location.
Through three sections of the ‘Knowledge’, we will cover:
Symptoms of the disease, methods of transmission and preventative measures
Including covid-19 in your workplace risk assessment
Implementing a Covid Worksafe plan
Background and current situation
The novel Coronavirus 2019, officially named Covid-19 by the World Health, emerged in the far East, in late 2019. The virus quickly spread through countries and continents, officially reaching pandemic level in March 2020. The virus combines an ability to spread very quickly with symptoms that prove fatal in some cases – these two factors have created a health crisis of a scale that has not before been experienced in living history.
Different nations have taken different approaches to managing the disease. At the time of writing, the approach in the UK is a government driven programme of guidelines and legislation, aimed at reducing contact between individuals and households, in order to reduce spread and keep infection levels at a manageable level.
1. Symptoms of the disease, methods of transmission and preventative measures
Symptoms and characteristics of the disease
According to the NHS, the main symptoms of coronavirus are:
A high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back
A new continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you’ve noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal
Most people with coronavirus have at least 1 of these symptoms. For the latest symptom information, go to the NHS website.
However, we also know that a significant number of people can carry the disease without displaying symptoms – described as ‘asymptomatic’. This is potentially dangerous as a carrier may underestimate the risk of their own actions, and pass onto others.
Certain people are particularly vulnerable to contracting and / or suffering serious consequences of covid-19. These include:
Those who are 60-years old or over
Those who have underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, asthma and cardiovascular disease, or are obese
People who smoke
People who have difficulty understanding the situation and applying safe practices, including those with special educational needs or dementia.
Whilst knowledge surrounding the virus was limited as it emerged, we now have access to more definitive research about the ways in which it spreads from infected to non-infected people. The virus is carried in droplets formed in the respiratory system, and then passed between people in several ways, including:
During close contact between people – droplets pass from one to the other through air. This is most likely to happen over a distance of 2 metres or less.
Via airborne transmission – unfortunately the virus is particularly resistant and can remain in the air for a period of time, especially in an enclosed space with low ventilation.
Through contact with contaminated surfaces – due to its resistant nature, covid-19 can remain present for considerable periods of time on surfaces, allowing transmission from an infected person to another person by touching the same surface.
Because of the transmission methods described above, one of the most useful methods of reducing the spread of the virus is maintaining a distance from other people. Ideally this distance should be 2 metres, taking into account the possible reach of airborne particles.
Personal hygiene – Regular thorough handwashing with soap and waterreduces the spread of the virus through touch; a high alcohol hand sanitiser is a good substitute in situations where handwashing cannot be carried out. Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing – ideally with a disposable tissue. If necessary, sneeze into the crook of your elbow, rather than your hand. People who have a high probability of coming into contact with people from other households (for instance those in caring or teaching roles) are also advised to wash clothes daily, removing them as soon as possible when re-entering the home.
Face coverings and personal protective equipment (PPE)
The current WHO advice states that non-medical face coverings should be worn in public when social distancing is not possible. Research suggests that face coverings, when worn properly, restrict the transmission from the wearer to others. Some people are exempt from wearing face coverings, and if you are in a position where you need to enforce the wearing of masks, it is useful to consider a plan that addresses this sympathetically – for instance, a poster encouraging exempt people to make you aware of their exemption.
The use of gloves can be helpful in situations where objects are passed between one person to another – however, gloves can create a false sense of security and discourage regular handwashing, so consider their use carefully.
Because of the impact of the virus on supplies needed for health and care settings, the use of medical grade PPE is only recommended in workplaces that genuinely require its use.
Regular thorough cleaning of surfaces and touch points (such as door handles, handrails, card payment machines) restricts the spread of the virus via contact. Cleaning schedules should be revised to allow cleaning of surfaces between users wherever possible.
Self-isolation and shielding
If a person displays symptoms or has a positive test, they will need to isolate themselves, i.e. stay in their home and avoid all contact with people outside their household. Those who are particularly vulnerable to the disease, for instance those with underlying health conditions may be advised to shield – that is, to keep themselves isolated throughout the period when the disease remains a danger. This can present a difficult situation for an employer and their member of staff. In all cases, the best way forward is for the member of staff and their employer to agree a suitable way forward; solutions could include switching to suitable duties that can be carried out from home, undertaking remote training or taking a period of annual or unpaid leave. However, employer and employee often have different, equally valuable viewpoints – in these cases the employment advisory service ACAS can prove an invaluable source of advice and experience.
Despite the fiercely difficult trading conditions that most food businesses find themselves in, many have changed the way they work to suit the new conditions; turning a sit down food venue into a takeaway business is a great example of this. The CIEH have produced a comprehensive guide of the factors you must consider when adjusting your operations- we run through the topics covered briefly below:
Factors to consider include:
Food business registration – If you are not already registered as a food business with your local authority, or you plan to change your operations significantly (for instance, starting deliveries or delivering to a vulnerable group of people), you must register online. Planning regulations have been relaxed for the foreseeable future, making it easier for businesses to adjust operations.
Allergies and ordering – allergenic ingredients must be declared both at the point of ordering AND at the point of delivery. If you need to update allergy training for you or your team, consider undertaking the Safer Food Group’s Allergy Awareness course.
Food packaging and delivery bags – anything you use to package takeaway food must be fit for purpose – so containers must be food safe and delivery packaging must be capable of keeping food at the correct temperature and able to be disinfected between uses. Remember the Danger Zone from your Food Hygiene training!
Delivery drivers – if offering a delivery service, you must ensure the correct insurance is in place, and that covid safe procedures are carried out during food pick up, drop off and in between deliveries.
Food collection – consider safe procedures to allow your staff to maintain distance from customers, and customers from each other. Use clear signage to indicate what is expected of your customers
Safe food procedures – update your HACCP / SFBB plan to include your new operation and ensure it is fully risk assessed and managed.
Create a covid-safe workplace – if your business has not been open at all during the pandemic, you will need to ensure you have introduced measures such as increased handwashing, distancing between staff, increased cleaning and laundry. Even if you have already introduced measures to eliminate the spread of covid-19, you must undertake a review when making a change to the way you operate.
Communicate with your customers – there is little point in creating a new offering if your customers are unaware of it. Think about the most effective ways of shouting about your new service – and how these might differ when the majority your customers are spending a lot of time in their homes. Tap into local social media pages, community groups and encourage word of mouth recommendations from your regulars. Consider a loyalty scheme, special offers on quiet days – or something that targets a unique feature of your local area, such as a local speciality food, a traditional event or a charity cause that you can support. And don’t forget to say thank you – a personal message from a local business reminds your customers of the human element of your business.
Of course, turning your food operation into a takeaway is not the only option to try and make the most of your business during difficult times. In our latest video, our trainers Jonny and Paul discuss making the most of your resources during lockdown and tiering restrictions. They consider some successful examples of food businesses who have changed the way they work in order to survive lockdown and government restrictions. Have a look here…
The simple answer to this question is – YES! Staff can train while furloughed – in fact, many employers found that the last lockdown was the perfect opportunity to review training records and fill in any gaps whilst staff were unable to work. At a time when staff are feeling uncertain about their future, making a small investment in their development can help to keep them engaged and better prepared for the challenges that face them on their return to work.
Things to consider: If someone does undertake training during furlough, they must receive at least the current minimum wage for those hours. As employees may be earning less than their normal wages whilst they are furloughed, the employer must check that this is the case.
Training must be undertaken in a covid safe way. Online training offers a remote method of delivery, so learners can access in their own homes. Courses that can be undertaken flexibly to suit the learner are useful, as these allow learners to read at their own speed, review elements they find tricky and test their understanding as they progress.
Look for providers that really consider the needs of the learner, in order to deliver effective training – for instance, those who compliment their written course material with video or audio lessons, suiting students who find it difficult to read long passages. Training providers who have put considerable effort into developing learner centred courses will invariably be pleased to talk you through their teaching methods, and present demo material for you to trial. And spending money on effective training provides a far greater return on investment for the employer, if employees can return to work with genuine insight and skills that improve their performance.
Seek a provider that meets the needs of the business too. Some offer tools that allow the training manager or business owner to track their learners’ progress. The SFG business admin panel acts as a staff training record, showing progress of current learners, previous courses requiring renewal, and allowing the business to download staff certificates for display.
A little about the Safer Food Group: our courses are designed around the needs of the food industry and it’s employees. Our courses combine clear, accessible written content with thorough, engaging video presentations, designed to incorporate the benefits of face to face teaching in a cost effective, safe online environment. Our team includes experienced food professionals, experts in education and creative tech developers, working together to meet the training needs of food businesses and manufacturers, chefs and cooks, kitchen supervisors and food handlers.
We have created a full set of standard signage to allow you to operate your business within the latest government guidelines during the pandemic and as we start to get back to trading again. Now all artwork has 1m not 2m distancing information shown.
Simply download the above document and either print on your own printer or supply to a print shop to produce whatever you need for your new processes. Please note that floor stickers and some other items may need to be produced to specific guidelines to fit with health & safety requirements.
A quick internet search will reveal a whole raft of information and advice regarding food business operations during and after the pandemic. This checklist, written by the brilliant team at the Institute of Food Science and Technology, is the most comprehensive and easy to follow list we’ve found.
To deliver prepared food / meals to customers, you need to be registered as a food business, via your local authority. If you run an existing food business and want to start delivering food orders, you need to consider any new or different risks posed by this change. You will need to work through your Food Safety Management System* to make sure any food you sell in this way remains safe to eat.
Planning rules were relaxed on 17 March 2020 to allow pubs and restaurants to operate for 12 months as hot food and drinks takeaways during the coronavirus outbreak. However, businesses that do this must tell their local authority when the new use begins and ends.
The Association of British insurers have confirmed that if you are using your personal vehicle to deliver groceries or other essential goods to people, as long as you are not including a delivery charge, you do not need to update your insurance cover. If you are charging for deliveries, you should contact your insurance provider/ broker to check if they can extend your vehicle insurance to cover home delivery.
*Your Food Safety Management System, sometimes referred to as HACCP, is the system you create that considers the safety risk of every element of your food operation and puts measures in place to eliminate or minimise those risks. See TSFG’s Level 2 HACCP course for more details.
Legionnaires Disease is caused by Legionella bacteria, which live and breed in temperate, standing water and are then transmitted through airborne particles. Any premises that has been closed down for two or more weeks may have unintentionally been breeding this potentially fatal disease. Water systems, condensers, coolers, A/C units and tanks which have reached temperatures of 20-45 degrees C, may now harbour the bacteria – and no-one wants to face a new biological enemy in the wake of a global pandemic!
Ideally, water systems will have been flushed out, chemically treated and properly closed down before lockdown, but many businesses will not have considered this risk before they locked their doors. If that includes your business – you are not alone. The HSE has issued guidance about what to do in this situation. Follow their guidance and risk assessment here. And if necessary, call on the services of a local expert to ensure your water system is risk free before you open up to staff or customers.