Firms risk le­gal claims af­ter fail­ure on re­open­ing rules

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Michael O’Dwyer

UP TO three quar­ters of busi­nesses are fail­ing to meet gov­ern­ment guide­lines on re­open­ing, spark­ing fears of a wave of le­gal claims if staff or cus­tomers con­tract Covid-19 on un­safe premises.

The reve­la­tion prompted calls for the Gov­ern­ment to make its guid­ance clearer to avoid firms get­ting tan­gled in a web of red tape. Busi­ness groups also called for help for firms to meet the cost of en­sur­ing they min­imise the risk of Covid-19 be­ing trans­mit­ted be­tween staff and cus­tomers.

Gal­lagher, the in­surer, said that the ma­jor­ity of com­pa­nies that had asked it to re­view their risk as­sess­ments for re­open­ing had failed to meet the of­fi­cial stan­dards, which could leave them with­out a strong de­fence if they were sued. The most com­mon fail­ures by firms in­cluded fail­ure to carry out proper risk as­sess­ments and not fully un­der­stand­ing the Gov­ern­ment’s guide­lines, Gal­lagher found.

Neil Hodg­son, man­ag­ing direc­tor for risk man­age­ment at Gal­lagher, said: “Clearly the guide­lines are com­plex and vary de­pend­ing on the type of busi­ness and the ser­vices it of­fers. There­fore it’s no won­der that busi­ness own­ers are find­ing it dif­fi­cult to nav­i­gate some of the steps they are re­quired to put in place to pro­tect them from fi­nan­cial and rep­u­ta­tional dam­age.”

Roger Barker, head of cor­po­rate gover­nance at the In­sti­tute of Di­rec­tors, called for fur­ther fi­nan­cial sup­port to help firms meet the costs of re­open­ing safely.

He said: “Given that any risk assess­ment in­volves look­ing closely at of­fi­cial guid­ance, the Gov­ern­ment can help by mak­ing ad­vice as clear and up-to-date as pos­si­ble.

“Adapt­ing premises isn’t free for al­ready cash-strapped busi­nesses, so a re­cov­ery grant to en­able smaller firms to ad­just may prove help­ful, par­tic­u­larly for those that have missed out on sup­port so far.”

‘Adapt­ing premises isn’t free, so a re­cov­ery grant to en­able smaller firms to ad­just may prove help­ful’

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