Want to reopen your business, but not sure where you stand with the current COVID-19 situation? This article will set out what you’re currently allowed to do as the government begins reopening the economy, whether you’re running a retail business, pub, gym or restaurant.
The last few weeks of COVID-19 news have been bewildering to say the least. Confusing headlines and have probably left you, a franchisee or entrepreneur, completely baffled about how to reopen your business. And with the introduction of new Covid-safe guidelines and shifts in the previously outlined timescales, many of the UK’s business owners are now scratching their heads about how to move forward.
We’re going to offer some clear, fact-based guidance that will show you how to reopen your business safely, and in line with the remaining COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines. Hopefully, you’ll feel more confident and ready to reopen your business safely over the coming weeks, armed with enough knowledge to continue slowing the virus’ spread.
When can I reopen my business?
Following the government’s roadmap for moving out of lockdown, the next wave of businesses will be able to reopen from 15th June (next Monday) in England. Car showrooms and open-air markets have already opened for business, but other non-food retail outlets will now be allowed to welcome customers back in. The list includes everything from sweet shop franchises to book shops and auction houses to photography franchises.
All businesses planning to open their doors must stick to strict social distancing rules and the government’s ‘Covid-secure’ guidelines. If you’re not sure how to implement social distancing, check out how to make sure your franchise is ‘Covid secure’ and fun and practical ways to reopen your business in a ‘Covid-safe way’ for more information.
Franchisees should have already received comprehensive guidance on how to reopen their doors. If you haven’t been given any official guidance by your franchisor or franchise support team, you need to contact them urgently. Even if your franchisor is happy for you to implement safety measures as you see fit and doesn’t want to introduce any franchise-wide COVID-19 protocol, they should not be staying silent. You shouldn’t be left in the dark at such a confusing and crucial time.
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What about furloughed staff?
The government’s furlough scheme has evolved so that businesses can get staff back to work part-time from Wednesday 1st July. You can also remove staff from furlough altogether from the 15th June as your store(s) reopens, provided they have been on furlough for at least three weeks prior. At the moment, employees that are on furlough cannot work at all, so you will need to fully remove your staff member(s) from furlough and commit to paying all of their wages if you’d like to reopen next week.
Think carefully about how many staff members you remove from furlough, as anyone completely taken off the scheme cannot be re-furloughed. It’s wise to keep as many staff as you’re able to on furlough and run your store with a skeleton team of core employees until you can bring other staff back part-time. Once again, your franchisor should be offering you guidance on how to remove your staff from furlough. They may also allow you to delay your reopening until 1st July, so you don’t have to suddenly start paying all of your staff’s wages at a time when takings are likely to still be lower.
Which businesses must remain closed?
Until further notice, hospitality, leisure and food and drink franchises and independent businesses must remain closed. There has been a lot of discussion in the news this week about whether pub gardens could reopen on 22nd June, but business secretary Alok Sharma has stated that the government is currently sticking to its targeted reopening date of 4th July for pubs and restaurants.
The government is yet to confirm exactly when gyms and other leisure facilities will reopen, but it has been indicated that July is also the target for getting these kinds of businesses open again. As we’ve said before, their actions will be dictated by the rate at which the virus seems to be spreading. If numbers of cases and deaths continue to fall, gym franchises could reopen next month. For now though, it’s only non-essential retail businesses that will be opening their doors.
How to prepare to reopen your business
As well as getting your business Covid-secure and sorting out your team’s return, you will need to plan the practicalities of running your business during a pandemic. Previously simple tasks like stocking your shelves will now become a lot more complicated, as it will be hard for employees and customers to remain two metres apart at all times. Here are some other things that you may need to consider:
- How will you manage the flow of people into your store? Will you ask customers to queue? And will you need a staff member to enforce this?
- Can you stagger lunch breaks to stop employees crowding into break rooms?
- Can shifts be staggered to minimise close contact on entering/exiting your premises?
- Have you put up signs in public and private areas reminding both staff and customers of social distancing?
- Will there be enough customer demand to pay staff wages? Will you need to open with fewer staff members (or possibly just yourself)?
- How will you cope if staff have to self-isolate?
Can anyone else look after children?
BBC News says that it expects the government to announce that schools, both primary and secondary, will not fully reopen until September. This prospected decision may be because it’s just not feasible to enforce social distancing with full classes, and this could make it harder for lots of businesses to reopen. It’s going to be particularly difficult for franchisees and entrepreneurs that are parents to reopen with limited resources available for childcare.
The government is still asking that people refrain from letting grandparents or family members look after children that they do not live with in order to avoid households mixing. Professional childminders and private nurseries are only able to take care of children whose parent(s) are key workers. Franchisees looking to reopen their retail franchises may need to get creative to work around the restrictions. If you’re genuinely unable to reopen your shop, you will need to speak to your franchisor about how you can continue to move forwards.
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Getting back to normality
While life across the globe won’t return to normal for quite some time, it’s encouraging that more businesses are now being allowed to reopen. As long as social distancing is rigorously enforced and staff and business owners do all they can to mitigate risk, it’s hoped this will be a positive step towards full reopening the economy again. Check out our other articles for more guidance on everything COVID-19, business ownership and more.
Sophie Cole, Point Franchise ©