VAT reduction for catering and takeaway food

Clarification issued by the UK Government confirms that takeaway food will be included in the temporary VAT reduction announced on 8th July 2020.

The temporary 5% rate will apply between 15th July 2020 and 12th January 2021, in relation to food that is currently subject to standard VAT, produced ‘in the course of catering’. This includes:

  • hot and cold food for consumption on the premises on which they are supplied
  • hot and cold non-alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises on which they are supplied
  • hot takeaway food for consumption off the premises on which they are supplied
  • hot takeaway non-alcoholic beverages for consumption off the premises on which they are supplied

The VAT reduction does not apply to alcoholic drinks, or to food that is not produced in the course of catering, including:

  • retail supplies of cold takeaway food
  • retail supplies of groceries
  • supplies of food that require significant further preparation by the customer

The Gov.UK website contains further information about standard-rated and zero-rated food, as well as further details about the temporary VAT reduction.

Important Links

For more information regarding temporary VAT reduction for food businesses, click here

For more information regarding VAT rating for food businesses, click here

For more information regarding the NHS Test and Trace scheme, click here

For more information from the Government about the role of your business in Test and Trace, click here

For more information from the ICO about keeping Test and Trace data safe, click here

Guidance for food businesses on coronavirus (COVID-19)

Reopening and adapting your food business during COVID-19

Food Hygiene and Health & Safety courses offered by the Safer Food Group

Collecting Customer Data for NHS Test and Trace

Understanding how to gather data and what to do with it

The easing of lockdown restrictions means a return to business for many in the hospitality sector. However, this is not ‘business as usual’ – pubs, cafes and restaurants are expected to operate in very different ways in order to minimise the risk of spreading infection – including the collection of data to support the NHS Test and Trace scheme.

Guidelines released by the UK Government request that businesses where customers eat and / or drink on site collect data that can be supplied to NHS tracers if someone on those premises is later found to have contracted Covid-19. The purpose of collection is to alert others who might have come in contact with an infected person and therefore be at risk themselves. This does not apply to businesses that sell takeaway food or drink for off site consumption only.

What data should be collected?

Data should be collected for everyone on your premises – including staff, customers and other visitors if you have them. You may already gather all relevant data as part of your staff rotas and your customer booking system – if so, there is not need to collect it again, as long as you inform people that you will submit this data to the Test and Trace scheme on request, and customers are given an option to opt out of this. If you don’t have a system already in place, you might want to use our templates to do so – click for our customer record, staff record and visitor record.

The following details should be collected:

Staff:

  • Name
  • Contact phone number
  • Dates and times present at work

Customers:

  • Name of ‘lead member’ of group and number of people in group
  • Contact phone number of ‘lead member’ of group
  • Date of visit, arrival and departure times (estimated if necessary)
  • If they interact with a single staff member, the name of the assigned staff member 

Think about your method of collection – if you are asking for data on arrival, will the customer type in details on your device, or write down using your paper and pen. If so – how will you minimise the risk of transmission via these objects? If you ask them to tell you the information and you complete the form – how will you ensure their details are not overheard by another customer?

Data protection

Although businesses should encourage customers to provide these details, the customer does have the right to refuse to supply data. Any data you collect must be kept privately and securely, should be held for 21 days, and should be securely destroyed after this time period has elapsed, whether held as paper or digital records.

Important Links

For more information regarding the NHS Test and Trace scheme, click here

For more information from the Government about the role of your business in Test and Trace, click here

For more information from the ICO about keeping Test and Trace data safe, click here

Guidance for food businesses on coronavirus (COVID-19)

Reopening and adapting your food business during COVID-19

Food Hygiene and Health & Safety courses offered by the Safer Food Group

Covid-19 Risk Assessment in Food Manufacturing environments (part 1)

Working Safely during the Covid-19 Outbreak

The welcome news that food businesses are slowly returning to normal also creates a dilemma for business owners and managers. Many have been hit with difficult financial situations and now must balance business as normal with increased safety procedures designed to protect staff and customers.

Unfortunately, a number of food manufacturers, both in the UK and on the continent have hit the headlines as covid-19 infection rates have peaked amongst staff. Risk assessments, new policies and procedures and increased equipment and PPE can feel like an unbearable burden for the employer – however, taking a responsible and safe approach to managing risk will give businesses the best chance of survival into and through the financial challenges we all face.

Covid Secure Guidelines

A quick internet search brings up a huge amount of information and guidance for returning to business within a pandemic situation. It is easy to get lost down a rabbit hole of forms and links, recommendations and legal advice. The following advice is based on the Government’s Working Safely during the Covid-19 outbreak and links are provided at the end of the article.

Work from home if you can

  • All reasonable steps should be taken by employers to help people work from home. But for those who cannot work from home and whose workplace has not been told to close…you should go to work. Staff should speak to their employer about when their workplace will open.

Clearly in a food production plant, a large number of staff will need to be on site, to carry out day to day work. But think creatively – does that apply to all staff? Can admin and planning staff do some or all of their work from home? Reducing the number of people on site is a positive move, as long as it doesn’t compromise safety.

Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment, in consultation with workers or trade unions

  • This guidance operates within current health and safety employment and equalities legislation and employers will need to carry out COVID-19 risk assessments in consultation with their workers or trade unions, to establish what guidelines to put in place.
  • If possible, employers should publish the results of their risk assessments on their website and we expect all businesses with over 50 employees to do so.

Manufacturing businesses should be very familiar with regular and thorough risk assessments, as dictated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE): see below for HSE examples of risk assessments for Food Preparation and Factories. The Safer Food Group’s Level 2 Health and Safety Course offers a detailed explanation into conducting and carrying out an effective 5 point risk assessment plan; and we have given more detail about this very important process in the second part of this article. Managers and employers who have already taken this course can review their existing plans and add the specific hazards and risks created by covid-19 to ensure they are operating safely.

Maintain 2 metres social distancing, wherever possible

  • Employers should re-design workspaces to maintain 2 metre distances between people by staggering start times, creating one way walk-throughs, opening more entrances and exits, or changing seating layouts in break rooms.

Allowing space between people is a fundamental step to minimising transmission of coronavirus – thereby protecting your staff and maintaining a healthy and effective workforce. Do you have space to spread out operations? Can you repurpose warehouse space or use temporary cover in outdoor areas to increase distance between individuals?

Where people cannot be 2 metres apart, manage transmission risk

  • Employers should look into putting barriers in shared spaces, creating workplace shift patterns or fixed teams minimising the number of people in contact with one another, or ensuring colleagues are facing away from each other.

Whilst this might potentially feel like a considerable upheaval and expense for a manufacturing plant, employers and managers must not lose sight that, in most businesses, their people are their most expensive and valuable resource. Even on a small scale, absence of workers has serious implications on production and therefore profitability; the potential of coronavirus to spread quickly throughout the workforce must not be underestimated. Introducing shields, barriers and PPE can feel like an unnecessary expense, until it is compared with the cost of extra recruitment, temporary staff, sickness pay, and retraining – even in economic terms, it is a risk not worth taking.

Reinforcing cleaning processes

  • Workplaces should be cleaned more frequently, paying close attention to high-contact objects like door handles and keyboards. Employers should provide hand washing facilities or hand sanitisers at entry and exit points.”  

Regular cleaning and handwashing are two of the most effective ways of minimising spread of the virus. Workers in a food production environment should already be well trained in handwashing techniques, but there is no better time to reinforce the importance of taking responsibility for personal hygiene. Use the Safer Food Group’s handwashing video as a training resource, and make sure everyone is up to date with the appropriate level of Food Hygiene training.

For more information on the advice above, visit the Gov.uk and HSE websites and for further detail on conducting Risk assessments, follow this link to the second part of this article.

Important Links

Guidance for food businesses on coronavirus (COVID-19)

Reopening and adapting your food business during COVID-19

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/factories-plants-and-warehouses

https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/working-safely/index.htm

https://www.foodstandards.gov.scot/downloads/COVID-19_-_Risk_Assessment_Tool_for_Re-starting_Food_Business_Operations_During_COVID-19.pdf

https://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/casestudies/pdf/foodprep.pdf

https://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/casestudies/pdf/factory.pdf

Covid-19 Risk Assessment in Food Manufacturing environments (part 2)

Undertaking a Covid-19 Risk Assessment

The welcome news that food businesses are slowly returning to normal also creates a dilemma for business owners and managers. Many have been hit with difficult financial situations and now must balance business as normal with increased safety procedures designed to protect staff and customers.

Following on from, Covid-19 Risk Assessment in Food Manufacturing environments (part 1): Working Safely during Covid-19 outbreak, this article briefly discusses some of the added risks posed by Coronavirus within food manufacturing environments.

Manufacturers should already be familiar with undertaking and implementing risk assessments as part of standard operations. The threat of covid has introduced a number of new risks and hazards that need to be considered, but the 5 point risk assessment plan (as detailed in the Safer Food Group’s Level 2 Health and Safety course) is an effective tool to use in the face of this new challenge.

An employer is legally responsible to protect their employees from harm at work https://www.hse.gov.uk/simple-health-safety/risk/index.htm – failure to do so can lead to prosecution, considerable fines and even prison sentences. A risk assessment should be carried out by a competent person who has adequate experience and oversight but involving workers in the process is a very good idea as this can often highlight hazards and risks unforeseen by managers or business owners. A very comprehensive example of a covid-19 risk assessment within a food business has been compiled by Food Standards Scotland , and examples of standard risk assessments for factories and food production are available via the HSE.

  • Identify the hazards

Hazards are processes, environments or physical objects that may cause harm. In normal circumstances, you would have identified hazards by considering:  

  • Working processes and practices
  • Plant and equipment
  • Chemical and substances
  • Working environment

In the current climate, you will need to consider a new hazard – the transmission of a highly contagious virus that has the potential to cause serious harm to a large percentage of your workforce if left unchecked. This could be within your business premises, or outside of your premises if you despatch goods or send people to work outside of your premises.

Write this down – either in additional to your normal workplace risk assessment, or as a specific document that addresses Covid-19 as an individual risk. If you would like to use our Risk Assessment template, click here.

  • Assess the risk

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.

Think about the ways the virus can enter and be transmitted around your business. The current strain of Coronavirus has been shown to be particularly resistant and robust, surviving both in the air and on surfaces for considerable lengths of time. 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 people 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 be in close proximity to another person – 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, such as those with underlying health conditions, older people and pregnant women.

Add this information to your risk assessment document, so you remember to look at each group individually.

  • Control the risk

Consider all of your examples in your risk assessment one by one. For each of them, you should aim to ELIMINATE the risk whenever possible – examples would be to:

  •        Monitor staff infection levels. Ensure that you have a clear reporting method for any staff that report 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 people should behave at all times 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. 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.
  •        Outsourcing 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 plant and equipment that has to be shared by workers, ensuring surfaces are sanitised between each use.
  •        Provision of shields between workspaces if individuals are not able to keep at least 2m apart
  •        Provision of appropriate PPE if workers are likely to come into close contact with one another.
  •        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.

  • Record your findings and implement them

Add the control measures to your risk assessment document and put everything in place to allow these control measures to 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 face to face discussion, that allows workers to ask questions, and gain a good understanding of your new control measures. Follow this up by 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.

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 risk. It may be useful to revisit your plans in light of staff 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 adhere to.

  • 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 rises 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, unconsidered 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 welfare is of genuine concern is very likely to have a positive long term effect within your workforce, as well as protecting your future business.

Important Links

Guidance for food businesses on coronavirus (COVID-19)

Reopening and adapting your food business during COVID-19

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/factories-plants-and-warehouses

https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/working-safely/index.htm

https://www.foodstandards.gov.scot/downloads/COVID-19_-_Risk_Assessment_Tool_for_Re-starting_Food_Business_Operations_During_COVID-19.pdf

https://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/casestudies/pdf/foodprep.pdf

https://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/casestudies/pdf/factory.pdf

FREE – Covid-19/Social Distancing Signage (1M UPDATE)

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.

1m version of COVID-19 FREE signage

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.

FREE – Covid-19/Social Distancing Signage

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.

Free covid-19 signage, social distancing signage
Free COVID-19 signage / Social distancing signage to help you work within current government guidelines

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.

Keeping your customers safe + Covid-19 Signage

Feedback from customers to shops open during the pandemic has proved that they appreciate businesses that take customer safety seriously. Thinking about the journey your visitors take, and how to make that journey as smooth and efficient as possible will help them feel valued and that can only be a good thing, for your customers, your staff and your business. A clear route with bold signage is the first step to bringing customers back onto your premises safely.

Free covid-19 signage, social distancing signage
Free COVID-19 signage / Social distancing signage to help you work within current government guidelines

Step 1 – Outside Spaces

Think about social distancing outside your premises. How do you encourage people to stay 2 metres apart? What are the best methods for you? Think about window posters, floor stickers, rope barriers or free standing frames and flags that can show the customer what is expected of them.

Step 2 – Entrances and Exits

Is it clear to the customer when and where, or even if, they can enter your shop? Think about the messages you want to place at the entrance. Do you need to specify the number of people allowed in at one time? Do you need to let them know which direction to walk in, and what to do once inside? Walk through the process yourself to spot the potential questions and pitfalls. A member of staff on the door to manage the queue can be a great asset, especially if they can chat to customers, lighten the mood and make the experience more pleasant.

Step 3 – Inside the shop

Your customer needs to know how to walk round the shop, where and when to stop, how to order and how to pay. Think about the best way to communicate – stickers on the floor or posters on walls or hanging from ceiling could indicate direction, whereas ordering and payment instructions are best both before and at the point of purchase. And while you’re thinking about signage inside the shop, if you’ve never got round to displaying your Food Hygiene Rating sticker and your team’s food hygiene certificates, now is a great time to get it done!

Design considerations

Do you want a quick and easy solution – if so, check out our free download, ready for you to print up to A3 size or on A4 on a standard printer.  Or do you have a ‘corporate image’ that you would like a designer to incorporate into your signage?

Think about suitable materials. Is paper sufficient – you can amend and replace it easily … or do you need to visit a specialist printer, who can print on longer lasting, weather proof or adhesive material, and provide you with hardware such as frames, screens and flags (N.B. – if you are thinking about floor or hanging signage, please ensure you visit a printer who understands and follows required health and safety guidelines). We’re happy for you to take our templates to a professional printer, but please ask them to drop us a quick line for permission if they’d like to adapt our designs in any way, on clare.grantham@thesaferfoodgroup.com.

Restarting a food business after a temporary shutdown

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.

Restart checklist

Important Links

The IFST Knowledge Hub contains a lot of great resources to consolidate advice, practical guidance and links to resources to support individuals, smaller food businesses and larger food operations

IFST Covid-19 Knowledge Hub

I want to start food deliveries – do I need a license, or special car insurance?

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.

Can I train while on furlough?

We know how frustrating it can be. For some staff, the first weeks on the Job Retention Scheme felt like a welcomed break from busy lives. But now you’re keen to get back to work and thinking of ways to ease you back into your job. Renewing your food hygiene certificate, or even increasing your skills and knowledge with a Level 3 award feels like a great way of making the most of your time and showing your employer how much you’ve missed them!

But are you allowed to undertake a training course if you are furloughed? And is your employer allowed to ask you to train during your time away from the office? In most cases – YES! Your employer can ask you to undertake training related to your work, as long as you are not making money for your employer or providing services to your employer.  If your employer has asked you to train then you must be paid at least the National Minimum Wage / National Living Wage (or the equivalent apprentice wage) during the training, even if this is more than your 80% subsidised rate of pay during furlough. 

Of course, you are allowed to take courses that you choose and pay for yourself during this time – at The Safer Food Group, we have found a lot of our learners have chosen to take our Nutrition course during time off. There have been some great deals available for training courses during the pandemic, and it’s a good time to concentrate on learning that new skill or hobby that you’ve just never found time to do. BUT – do be cautious of signing up to courses that advertise themselves as free. Choose reputable suppliers, such as FutureLearn and OpenLearn, who are very clear about their genuinely free courses. Many others come with small print that reveal you become liable for fees after 4 weeks, or require you to pay back the cost of the course if you do not complete it. If in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification of terms and conditions in writing before you sign up.