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COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

This page contains resources for retailers with regard to the developing situation on COVID-19 (Coronavirus). 

If you have any questions or concerns about what to do in your business, contact Julie Byers at julie.byers@acs.org.uk

Resource Centre

DOWNLOAD HOME DELIVERY GUIDANCE FOR RETAILERS

DOWNLOAD GOVERNMENT SUPPORT FOR BUSINESSES BRIEFING TABLE

DOWNLOAD DEVOLVED ADMINISTRATIONS BRIEFING

DOWNLOAD POSTERS FOR YOUR STORE ON HOME DELIVERY, HANDWASHING, COLLECTIONS AND MORE

DOWNLOAD A TEMPLATE LETTER FOR CRITICAL WORKERS

DOWNLOAD A TEMPLATE LETTER FOR CRITICAL WORKERS TRAVELLING TO WORK


Assured Advice: Product Ranges in Store

We've had a small number of reports of environmental health officers attempting to stop retailers from selling seasonal items like easter eggs. The following is Assured Advice from Surrey/Bucks Trading Standards and states clearly that retailers can continue selling a full range of products: 

All ACS members are able to continue trading throughout the lockdown and play a vital role in keeping our communities looked after in these very difficult times.  

There are no restrictions on the types of goods that ACS members can continue to sell - in effect you should continue with the stock ranges that you would normally have for this time of year (this includes seasonal goods).


Updates from Government 

Social Distancing

The Government has published new guidance for businesses on maintaining social distancing. The full guidance is available here.

Key points from the guidance are included below. 

Shops running a pick-up or delivery service

You should ensure that no orders are taken in person on the premises. You should only take orders online or by telephone and communicate this to customers by clear signage in store and online. The advice on social distancing measures applies to everyone and you should take steps to avoid crowding and minimise opportunities for the virus to spread by maintaining a distance of 2 metres between individuals, wherever possible.

Collections

Where customers are collecting items, they should have staggered collection times. When customers whose orders are ready enter, they should enter one at a time to collect orders and make payments, maintaining a safe distance.

Where queuing is taking place, you should use queue management systems to maintain a safe distance.

Deliveries

For retailers or restaurants running a delivery service, you should advise all delivery drivers that no goods or food should be physically handed over to the customer. There should instead be a set drop-off point agreed in advance.

After ringing the doorbell, the driver should maintain a safe distance from the door and oversee the delivery of the goods. The goods should not be left unattended.

You should introduce a way for customers to be able to notify your business that they are in self-isolation or are unwell in advance of the delivery, in which case these guidelines should be very strictly followed. The driver should not enter the customer’s property.

To minimise the risk that a customer does not answer the door, sensible steps such as setting an approximate delivery time and gaining a contact number should be taken.

You should advise drivers to wash their hands using soap and water for 20 seconds as regularly as possible, and drivers should be given hand-sanitiser to be carried at all times and used after each delivery.

General Retail Guidance on Social Distancing

To protect your staff, you should remind colleagues and drivers daily to only come into work if they are well and no one in their household is self-isolating.

To protect staff and customers, you should manage entry into the store, only allowing a limited number of people into your store at any given time.

You should put up signage to ask customers with symptoms not to enter the store, and to remind both staff and customers to always keep 2 metres from other people, wherever possible.

You should regularly encourage staff to wash their hands with soap and water as often as possible and for 20 seconds every time.

If feasible, you should also put up plexiglass barriers at all points of regular interaction to further reduce the risk of infection for all parties involved, cleaning the barriers regularly. You should still advise staff to keep 2 metres apart as much as possible.

To protect your staff, you should remind colleagues daily to only come into work if they are well and no one in their household is self-isolating.


Critical Workers

The Government has confirmed that convenience store colleagues will be included in the definition of critical worker. It states that "those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery" will be able to continue taking their children to school. The full list of critical workers is available here

DOWNLOAD A TEMPLATE LETTER FOR CRITICAL WORKERS

DOWNLOAD A TEMPLATE LETTER FOR CRITICAL WORKERS TRAVELLING TO WORK

Plastic Bag Charge

From Saturday 21st March, large retailers (those with more than 250 employees) in England will no longer have to charge 5p for plastic bags supplied with online deliveries - effective for the next six months. The charge will continue for bags used in-store. 

General Guidance

The Government's official guidance is available here. It includes information on the following areas: 

  • Keeping your business open
  • What to do if someone develops symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) at work
  • Sick pay
  • Certifying absence from work
  • What to do if an employee needs time off work to look after someone
  • Limiting spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in workplaces
  • Cleaning and waste

Stay At Home Guidance: Stay at home guidance has been issued by the Government and is available here.

Action Plan: The Government has also published its coronavirus action plan which provides information on what further action can be expected from the Government in response to coronavirus. 


How Government is Helping Businesses

The following support is available on business rates and cash grants. See ‘devolved administrations’ for details in Scotland and Wales.

  • Small Business Grant Fund - £10,000 one-off cash grant for stores eligible for Small Business Relief or Rural Rate Relief.
  • Retail Grant Fund - £10,000 one-off cash grant for stores up to £15,000 rateable value, except those eligible for the Small Business Grant Fund. £25,000 one-off cash grant for stores between £15,000 - £51,000 rateable value.
  • Business Rates Holiday – 100% business rates relief for 2020/21 business rates bills.

We have developed a flow chart for businesses on the grants available to them, which you can download here. 

Additional business support for retailers trading anywhere across the UK includes:

  • Business Interruption Loan Scheme – allowing retailers to borrow up to £5 million, interest free for up to 12 months, with no personal guarantees required for loans under £250,000. All retailers are eligible, regardless of regular commercial financing options.
  • Corporate Financing Facility – larger retailers can apply for the Bank of England to purchase short-term corporate debt (commercial paper) to raise working capital for cashflow purposes.
  • Commercial Renter Protection – landlords cannot begin or proceed with eviction procedures where tenants miss a rent payment over the next three months. Tenants in distress are advised to contact their landlord to agree rental holidays or deferred payment plans.
  • Statutory Sick Pay – the Government is providing sick pay funding for retailers with up to 250 employees, enabling these retailers to reclaim up to 14 days of sick pay for COVID-19 related absences. Procedures to claim the funding are currently being developed.
  • VAT Payments – retailers do not have to pay VAT from April until the end of June. Retailers will have until the end of the year to pay those bills.
  • Filing Accounts – retailers can apply for a 3-month extension on filing accounts with Companies House. Applications should take 15 minutes to complete.
  • Self-Employment Income Support Scheme - will provide self-employed retailers with a taxable grant worth 80% of average profits from financial years 2016 – 2019 inclusive. The grant is capped at £2,500 per month for three months.

The Bank of England have also announced a package of measures to help UK businesses and households bridge across the economic disruption that is likely to be associated with COVID-19. Interest rates have been reduced from 0.75% to 0.1%. 

How the Government is Helping Workers

  • Job Retention Scheme – all retailers will be able to apply for a grant to cover 80% of the salary of retained workers, up to an 80% salary cap of £2,500 per month. These workers must be designated as ‘furloughed’ and cannot do work for the business. The scheme will be open for an initial three month period, with no limit to the amount of funding available for the scheme. Retailers can now re-hire and furlough employees who no longer have a new job to begin and furlough employees who are shielding under government advice.
  • Strengthening the Safety Net – the Universal Credit allowance will be increased by £1000 for the next 12 months. Working tax credit will also be increased by £1000 over the same period.
  • Rental support - £1bn is being provided to support renters. The Local Housing Allowance will now cover 30% of social rent.

Devolved Administrations – Wales

  • Business Rates Holiday – 100% business rates relief for 2020/21 business rates bills, for stores up to £500,000 rateable value.
  • Welsh COVID-19 Business Grant - £10,000 one-off cash grant for stores eligible for Small Business Relief with a rateable value of £12,000 or less. £25,000 one-off cash grant for stores between £12,000 - £51,000 rateable value.
  • Welsh Small Business Grant – Retailers employing up to nine people can apply for a grant up to £10,000. Retailers with between 10 and 249 employees can apply for a grant up to £100,000.

Devolved Administrations - Scotland

  • Scottish COVID-19 Business Grant - £10,000 one-off cash grant for stores eligible for the Small Business Bonus Scheme or Rural Rate Relief. £25,000 one-off cash grant for stores between £18,001 - £51,000 rateable value.
  • Business Rates Holiday – 100% business rates relief for 2020/21 business rates bills.

    Sick Pay and Employment

    Employees are entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP) for up to 28 weeks of work absence, if they earn an average of £118 per week or more. SSP is paid at £94.25 per week on a pro-rata basis.

    The following changes are in place on SSP:

    • Self-Isolation – SSP will be payable to people who are staying at home on government advice, not just those who are infected, from 13 March 2020. Regulations were laid on 12 March 2020 to bring this into effect. Retailers can use their discretion about what evidence, if any, to ask for.
    • Commencement – Employees claiming SSP due to coronavirus will now be eligible from day one of absence, rather than the fourth day of their illness. The Government intends to legislate so this applies retrospectively from 13 March 2020. 
    • Evidence – Employers are advised to use their discretion around the need for medical evidence for a period of absence where an employee is advised to stay at home due to suspected COVID-19, in accordance with the public health advice being issued by the government.
    • Funding - The Government is bringing forward legislation to allow retailers with up to 250 employees to reclaim up to 14 days of statutory sick pay paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19.

    Colleagues not Eligible for SSP

    Employees not entitled to SSP (earning under £118 per week) may be eligible for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit. You can advise the following changes to employees due to coronavirus:

    • Evidence - People claiming for either ESA or Universal Credit are no longer required to produce a fit note.
    • Universal Credit - People affected by coronavirus can now apply for Universal Credit and receive up to a month’s advance up front without physically attending a jobcentre.
    • ESA - ESA will now be payable from day one for new claimants who are either suffering from coronavirus or required to stay at home.

    ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) has published guidance for employers and employees which states that it is good practice for employers to treat self-isolation as sick leave and follow their usual sick pay policy or agree for the time to be taken as holiday.

    If you have specific questions about employment regulations, contact Steve Dowling at steve.dowling@acs.org.uk


    Hygiene and Safety In Store

    ACS has Assured Advice avaialble for retailers on food hygiene standards and practices in store, and the things that should be considered when offering a water refills service. These guides are available below: 

    Assured Advice - Food Safety and Hygiene

    Assured Advice - Water Refills

    It is advised that you implement measures in your store to help customers ensure that they adhere to social distancing guidelines. Consider putting lines on the floor in front of the till points to ensure that customers maintain a safe distance to colleagues, asking customers to maintain distance whilst queueing, and encourage customers to use contactless payment where possible.

    DOWNLOAD A NOTICE FOR YOUR QUEUEING AREA

    DOWNLOAD A NOTICE FOR YOUR TILL POINTS

    In addition to regular handwashing, colleagues may feel safer if they have additional personal protective equipment. Consider providing disposable gloves for colleagues to use whilst on the shop floor.

    At especially busy times, it may be difficult for customers to maintain a safe distance from each other and colleagues whilst shopping. Consider restricting the number of customers allowed in the store at any one time during these periods.

    Restocking

    Retailers should also consider management of people coming into stores at busy periods and how you restock sites. Retailers should think about how you minimise contact between colleagues and customers during restocking. This may involve:

    • temporarily closing off aisles that are being restocked 
    • closing stores for periods to focus on restocking 
    • placing bollards or markers around colleagues who are restocking to maintain a 2m distance if at all possible 

    What do retailers need to do if a member of staff shows symptoms of COVID-19?

    The government’s guidance on 7th April stated:

    • That if anyone becomes unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature in the business or workplace, they should be sent home and advised to follow the stay at home guidance.
    • If a member of staff has helped someone who was taken unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature, they do not need to go home unless they develop symptoms themselves. They should wash their hands thoroughly for 20 seconds after any contact with someone who is unwell with symptoms consistent with coronavirus infection.
    • It is not necessary to close the business or workplace or send any staff home, unless government policy changes.
    • More information is available here.

    The government’s guidance on 7th April states that all surfaces that the symptomatic person has come into contact with must be cleaned and disinfected, including:

    • objects which are visibly contaminated with body fluids
    • all potentially contaminated high-contact areas such as bathrooms, door handles, telephones, grab-rails in corridors and stairwells

    More information on cleaning in non-healthcare settings is available here.

    Should PPE equipment be worn by staff working in convenience stores?

    The government’s guidance on 7th April stated that wherever possible, disposable or washing-up gloves and aprons should be worn for cleaning. These should be double-bagged, then stored securely for 72 hours then thrown away in the regular rubbish after cleaning is finished. More information is available here.

    Should face masks be worn by staff working in convenience stores?

    The government’s guidance on 7th April stated they do not advise masks to be worn in public places and for those working in supermarkets, waste collection, schools and similar settings. More information is available here


    Pricing Advice

    Retailers are experiencing some increased cost prices due to scarcity of some products in the supply chain. As a retailer you are then faced with a choice of passing this cost on, but possibly being perceived as profiteering from the current situation. Clear communication is your best approach in tackling this, for example:

    • Putting up a poster explaining that some supply prices have gone up and that these may be reflected in your prices to customers.
    • Adding the supply price of certain affected products next to the retail price.
    • Responding to customer complaints in person or on social media by explaining the relevant facts.