As the coronavirus lockdown continues to pose challenges for independent retailers, it has made me consider how shop owners are adapting for for their vulnerable shoppers in line with legislation.

The first new piece of legislation that had a noticeable effect on my early career as a retailer was the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. It sets out the general duties that employers have towards employees and members of the public, employees have to themselves and to each other and certain self-employed people have towards themselves and others.

It also introduced me to the legal term ‘reasonably practicable’. If the business decided that it could not meet a requirement of the Act, it needs to be able to explain why it was not reasonably practicable to its employees and the HSE if there was a reportable incident.

The Disability Discrimination Act now covered by The Equality Act 2010  brought in another important legal term into my business vocabulary, ‘reasonable adjustments’. The Citizens Advice website states: “Traders and service providers must remove the barriers you face because of your disability so you can access and use their goods and services in the same way, as far as this possible, as someone who’s not disabled.”

Read more: Coronavirus: How safe is it to shop in store?

Neighbourhood stores have a brilliant track record for noticing the challenges that their customers have and naturally adjust the manner in the way that they serve each customer. During the coronavirus pandemic and the social distancing that was brought in earlier this year, stores had to adapt quickly to protect their employees and customers, particularly vulnerable shoppers. Some of their usual in-store adjustments were no longer possible or safe to operate.

Tesco was recently reminded that it needed to make a reasonable adjustment to the way it managed delivery slot availability for a customer on the government’s Extremely Clinically Vulnerable list.

Have you made any changes to the way that you operate your store that has impacted on your disabled customers? If you did at the beginning of the pandemic, it is now time to review the how you are meeting your legal obligations? If you make further changes or continue to operate as you are now record the reasons why you have changed the way you serve your customers.

Stores look very different today than at the start of the year and if you have not continued to monitor the reasonable adjustments that you can safely make you could find that you are failing to apply the Equality Act as you would normally wish to do.

Get more advice on making reasonable adjustments.



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