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In these challenging times, businesses have had to pivot to become ‘digital’ at a breakneck pace. Whether this means that your morning meetings have moved from the office to an online platform such as Zoom, or that your previously sit-in restaurant is now offering a takeaway delivery service, every business has experienced some form of change as a result of COVID-19.

By way of an example, Laynes Espresso, a marvellous coffee shop which first opened its doors to Leeds in 2011 (and counts the writer as one of its first overly enthusiastic customers. Hi Dave!) and has since expanded to offer breakfast and lunch, has, in their own words, had to “…completely flip the business model”. In order to adapt to the current climate, Laynes set up a coffee pickup point with socially distant queues and a designated spot. Since then, they have further adapted their approach to offer a delivery grocery store service, utilising the many courier options that Leeds has to offer.

Another Leeds-based example is Temple Donuts (which, being a local to our Leeds office, we can thoroughly recommend). Pursuant to the Government’s social distancing guidance, Temple Donuts ceased their collection and pre-ordering services and joined the Deliveroo community (for those of you who are not familiar with Deliveroo, they offer the delivery of food from an array of different restaurants and takeaways to your door).

Temple Donuts’ first day of deliveries via the Deliveroo service was on 20 April 2020 and it, quite literally, went down a treat, with roughly 3,500 orders placed. There was only one problem: Temple Donuts’ stock for that day was only enough to satisfy 160 orders. This means that the demand was 2,187.5% higher than the supply! This just goes to show what can be achieved when businesses are willing to keep up with the climate and look at the wider possibilities.

But what does this teach us?

Well, it demonstrates that any business can enter the digital marketplace. This has been seen across the spectrum, be it closed down pubs offering to deliver barrels of beer and other goods to residential homes to mitigate their losses, or local hairdressers offering to deliver hair and beauty products to your door, no business needs to get left behind. It also, importantly, teaches us that it in these fast-changing times, it is easy to overlook the obvious.

It also reminds us about the law of unintended consequences. The ‘unknown unknowns’, will almost always apply to any innovation. There will be things that don’t quite go to plan when you’re breaking new ground…
However, that doesn’t mean you ought to give up before you start. Nor does it mean that you can’t anticipate or mitigate some of the bigger pitfalls. Using a risk-based analysis, and asking the right questions helps. Questions like:
  • Can our supply meet the demand? Whose problem is it if it can’t?
  • Is the other contracting party up to this/can they meet their contractual obligations/do they reflect our brand and values?
  • What is all this about the gig-economy anyway? Are our new hires contractors, employees or workers? And does it really matter?
  • Can anyone nick this idea? If so, can I protect it? Do I want to protect it, or do I want to make a difference not a profit?
  • Can I use some T&C’s I found on Google? I mean, what’s the worst that can happen?
So, if you’re thinking of taking your first, or next, step into the digital marketplace and would like a chat about what your risks might be and how you can reduce them please contact Ian McCann or Sarah Podesta for more information. 
 
2020 00 11
Ian Mccann
It is currently impossible to say when and how the coronavirus lockdown will be eased. However, one Government strategy paper sets out a potential path back to work for those currently unable to do so. Of course, this has not yet been formally adopted and so should be treated with extreme caution, but any inkling as to how things might develop in the future is perhaps useful at this most extraordinary time. The main features of such a policy might be as follows:

-Employers would not be forced to maintain social distancing of two metres but encouraged to do so where possible.

- Where such social distancing would be impossible, other measures should be introduced such as screens, additional hygiene procedures and use of personal protective equipment.

-Employers would also be encouraged to stagger arrival and break times, minimise the use of equipment or office space, and avoid changing worker rotas.

-Home working would be encouraged as far as possible as it is already.

-Vulnerable workers such as those who are pregnant or over 70 would need to be placed in the ‘safest possible’ places in the workplace.
 
The likely approach of the government seems less one of enforcement but informal guidance. However, the approach of the HSE and local authorities will need to be watched closely. The underlying law of keeping workers and those affected by business activities safe ie doing as much as is reasonably practicable, will not change and employers will need to be very wary, not only of enforcement action, but also potential civil liability. The government approach will also have huge ramifications for the insurance market and employers will need to consider their policies and coverage very carefully.

We will keep you updated when we know more………………………
 
2020 00 07
Edmund Conybeare
There are certain key updates from the HSE at this unprecedented time:
  1. RIDDOR- A report regarding coronavirus need only be made under RIDDOR in the following circumstances:
 
  1. An unintended incident at work has led to someone’s possible or actual exposure to coronavirus. This must be reported as a dangerous occurrence.
  2. A worker has been diagnosed as having the virus and there is reasonable evidence that it was caused by exposure at work. This must be reported as a case of disease.
 
  1. Home Working- Many more people are now working from home due to the lockdown. A risk assessment for home working will be required and employers should be aware that they have the same health and safety responsibilities for home workers as any other worker.
 
  1. Road Transport-There are two major health and safety issues relating to coronavirus for this vital industry. Firstly, drivers must have access to welfare facilities and it will not be lawful for customers to deny them access. Secondly, the driver’s hours rules have been temporarily relaxed to ensure key supplies are maintained. More about the latter tomorrow.
 
  1. HSE approach- The HSE has not stopped working. Its staff remain contactable and will continue to engage with stakeholders. It has said that it will take a flexible and proportionate account of the risks of the pandemic. It will suspend some targeted inspection activity, and will keep regulatory activity not requiring site visits as normal as possible. It will continue t investigate work related deaths, the most serious incidents and reported concerns. It will still take action to ensure compliance with the law, and while it will work remotely as much as possible, it will mobilise to site where necessary.
 
  1. First aid cover and qualifications- Adequate first aid cover will still need to be maintained in the workplace. Reduced cover may be appropriate with more workers working from home. Sharing first aid cover with another business is a possibility, and provision has been made for first aid certificate extensions and interrupted first aid training.
 
Much more information is available on HSE and local authority websites. If you are unclear about your health and safety responsibilities at this very difficult time and require advice on any health and safety related issue and/or interpretation of the above, contact Edmund Conybeare on 07739 463571 or at edmund.conybeare@legalstudio.co.uk.
 

 
2020 39 08
Edmund Conybeare