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Category : Health & Safety

SME Tips for Weathering the Coronavirus Storm

Freelancer Working at Home

Introduction

The outbreak of COVID-19 and the ensuing pandemic is unprecedented in recent times and its economic impact is similarly unheard of. The Office for Budget Responsibility recently warned that the pandemic could lead to the UK economy shrinking by 35% by June 2020.

For many businesses of all shapes and sizes, in a variety of sectors, the pandemic has, at the very least, necessitated changes and, in more serious circumstances, poses a threat to their survival.

There is, however, plenty of cause for optimism. The government has introduced a range of measures to help support struggling businesses and there are a number of things that businesses of all size, SMEs in particular, can do to weather the storm of the pandemic. Above all else, it is important to stay calm and organised. A clear head and an efficient approach to business will make everything else that much easier.

Dealing with your Staff

We have covered flexible and home working in a number of other articles here at Simply-Docs (check out our Working from Home with Children blog post and our recent newsletter on Home Working). We also offer a range of documents specifically designed to facilitate such arrangements. Flexible working is a boon to employers and employees alike, particularly in such challenging times. It may not be suitable in all sectors, but if the nature of your business permits it, it is most definitely worth considering if you are not already doing so.

Implementing the right policies is an important element of flexible and home working. Without the structure of a normal working day, productivity and adherence to procedures can quickly deteriorate. Nevertheless, it is also important to understand that many staff, particularly parents or those with other dependents, will be facing considerably more responsibilities at home at present. Cultivating an understanding of such pressures and offering as much flexibility as you can will be appreciated by your staff and ideally enable them to be more productive.

Technology can be a great help. Investing in the right software and hardware can make it much easier for your business to operate as close to normal as possible, enabling your staff to easily keep in touch with each other, to hold meetings, to deal with customers, business partners, and the like. It can also be easier to implement security controls on company-owned technology such as laptops and smartphones, meaning that your business is less likely to fall victim to hacking, malware, or the perils of a data breach and the potentially crippling fines that can follow.

If you find that your resources are stretched, consider weighing up the costs of training existing staff for new or expanded roles instead of recruiting new people or taking on contractors. This opens up new opportunities and the possibility of a very welcome pay increase for your existing employees while avoiding the higher expense and complications of taking on new people.

Not all businesses are suited to home working, whether partially or fully. If your staff still need to come into work, keeping the workplace clean and safe is of paramount importance. The normal health and safety rules continue to apply, but when it comes to keeping things clean and hygienic, now is the time to go above and beyond. Equipment and surfaces should be cleaned more often than normal, with “high-touch” objects and areas receiving particular attention. Where supplies permit, provide cleaning materials for your staff to use, such as alcohol wipes for keyboards, mice, telephones, and other objects that are regularly handled. Ensure a plentiful supply of soap and hand sanitiser and ensure that your staff are reminded to use them frequently. Most important of all – if any of your staff are ill, however minor it may be, and whether or not they think it may be the coronavirus, ensure they stay at home and self-isolate in line with government and NHS guidelines.

If revenue declines to the point at which your options are limited financially, there are a range of options open. What is very important is that you communicate with your staff. Do not keep them in the dark. Consult with them and, where appropriate, involve them in planning. If possible, take advantage of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and place your employees on furlough leave. Simply-Docs has a range of templates and guidance designed to assist with this. Further choices include reduced pay, reduced hours, and, if all else fails, redundancy. When considering any such plans, it is vitally important to take professional advice.

Reduce Your Outgoings

If possible, look to re-negotiate contracts. Many of those businesses you are contracting with will be in similarly difficult positions and it may well be preferable to agree to reduced payments, orders, and so forth rather than to risk losing them completely. We offer a range of templates designed to assist in amending contracts in our Business document folder.

When it comes to property, particularly if you are not using your premises (or not using it to its normal capacity), consider negotiating with your landlord and look into the possibility of options such as discounted rent, rent deferment, rent-free periods, and/or a reduction on service charges. Find out more about managing property during the pandemic in our April 2020 property newsletter.

Whatever accommodations are agreed, and however renegotiations proceed, do not let the sense of urgency tempt you into informal agreements. Whenever possible, ensure that everything is documented and legally formalised.

Looking for New Financing Solutions

As revenue falls, debt becomes harder to pay. It is important to remember, however, that those to whom you owe money should hopefully want to receive it than risk missing out. Communication is, once again, key. Discuss your situation with banks and other lenders and look to renegotiate agreements or even take out new finance to help bridge the gap until normal trading begins to resume. The government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme is of particular relevance under this heading.

If you are a company, be particularly careful about giving personal guarantees. Always remember that a company is a legal entity of its own. Shareholders are protected and have limited liability. By giving a personal guarantee, the so-called “corporate veil” is pierced and the guarantor’s personal assets (including, potentially, their home) will be at risk. Once again, the importance of taking professional advice cannot be overstated.

VAT

Paying VAT can be a tremendous source of pressure and, if your revenue is on the decline, it will be even more so. Look to set up a quarterly payment plan for VAT and talk to HMRC about other assistance or concessions that may be available.

The government has also announced a VAT payment deferral scheme under which payments due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020 will not need to be made until 31 March 2021. Returns must, however, be filed on time. Also ensure that any direct debits are cancelled.

Take Care of Your Duties to the Company

If your business is a company, it is important to remember that directors must still comply with their statutory duties as set out in the Companies Act 2006:

  • Act within their powers
  • Promote the success of the company
  • Exercise independent judgement
  • Exercise reasonable care, skill, and diligence
  • Avoid conflicts of interest
  • Not accept benefits from third parties
  • Declare any interest in a proposed transaction or arrangement

The second of these is particularly important, and directors must act in a way that they consider (in good faith) to be most likely to benefit the company’s shareholders as a whole.

It is also, however, important to keep in mind solvency and wrongful trading. If your company’s solvency is in doubt, a director’s first duty is to creditors, not shareholders. That being said, companies in trouble have been given more breathing room with the recent announcement of changes with respect to wrongful trading.

Under normal circumstances, directors may incur personal liability if they allow a company to continue trading beyond the point at which they should have decided it wasn’t reasonably possible to save it. New measures, however, allow directors to continue trading even if there are reasonable grounds to think that the company may become insolvent, without incurring personal liability. This applies to actions taken after 1 March 2020. There will also be a temporary moratorium to prevent creditors seeking to wind up companies seeking rescue or restructuring, but at the time of writing, this is yet to be introduced.

Ensure that the normal procedures for running your business are adhered to, at least as much as the situation permits. If a decision needs to be made that requires shareholder or board approval, conduct things online using tools such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams (the same applies to meeting with your staff). Ensure that your articles of association permit this, however, and keep to the established processes. Do not succumb to the temptation to let things slide into informality. In particular, if you hold a virtual shareholders’ meeting, ensure that you adhere to the Companies Act 2006 and all required formalities.

Fail to Plan; Plan to Fail

Planning is always important in business, but all the more so now as there is less margin for error. A good starting point is to prepare a cashflow forecast to cover the next two to three months. This should be followed by planning and forecasting for the next couple of years as, even once lockdown restrictions begin to lift, it is likely to take the economy quite some time to stabilise and rebuild.

Organisation is vital. Ensure that your books and management accounts are up-to-date and review everything regularly. All meetings, at whatever level and however formal, should be documented, in accordance with legal requirements where applicable.

Concerns, whether they are of the gravest or most easily dismissed, should all be taken seriously and considered at the appropriate levels within your business, leaving nothing to chance. Changing circumstances could easily turn paranoia into reality on the one hand, and render a significant worry unwarranted on the other. Bury nothing!

Diversify and Grow

Yes – grow! As counterintuitive as it may first appear, such seismic changes to the economic landscape also present opportunities for those businesses ready and willing to adapt. One opportunity is to expand online, particularly if your business has remained predominantly (or entirely) brick-and-mortar in the past. This will not, of course, work for all, but in some cases a move online could not only keep your business afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, but also benefit it immensely afterward.

It may also be a good time to explore diversification. Perhaps there are new avenues that you have been keen to explore or some that are a natural next step that could be easily accommodated within your existing business model and by your existing staff.

Now is not the time for complacency. Businesses that have built up goodwill and nurtured customer relationships over many years may not, until now, have considered advertising and marketing particularly important. If finances permit, however, now may be an ideal time to consider casting a wider net. Online advertising, particularly on social media, can be an extremely productive investment if done correctly. Similarly, for those businesses already established online, consider your current SEO strategy. Is your website performing at its best? Could you make some changes to it that might move you up a peg or two in the search engine rankings? The internet is key to doing business under normal circumstances and even more so with the vast majority of the population quarantined in their homes.

You CAN Make It!

We keep being assured that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Meanwhile, numerous commentators caution us that we can’t see that light yet. It is certain that the toll that COVID-19 will take on the world will be huge, both in terms of the human cost and economically. Nevertheless, it is vital to persevere, and not surrender to the assumption that your business will fail just because it is facing difficulties.

To wrap up, some key points:

  • Stay up-to-date with the news (but don’t overdo it) and look out for announcements from the government that relate to your business affairs.
  • Document everything, whether required to by statute or not.
  • Avoid informal agreements at all costs.
  • When negotiating or re-negotiating contracts, be sure to cover the important points. Be specific about numbers, dates, review periods, termination, and other key provisions such as force majeure.
  • Communicate with your board, your shareholders, your staff, your suppliers, your customers, your bank, HMRC, and anyone else with whom your business deals. A problem is much harder to solve if those affected by it don’t know about it!
  • Be realistic and act accordingly. Don’t hide from your problems. Be proactive, be honest, be transparent, and be positive!

Being positive may sound awfully trite; but it is vitally important to remain as positive as you can. Looking after yourself as well as your business should be a key priority. Exhaustion and stress will not help keep your business going and could well end up costing you dearly if a lack of focus, physical, or mental illness stop you from performing at your best. Take time for exercise and for rest. Look after your mental health during these difficult times and ask yourself whether doing something really will make a difference. Will sweating over work until 11pm actually result in anything, or would your mind and work fare better with a fresh start in the morning if you took the evening to relax with your family or catch up with a friend over the phone or online?

Plan for the worst, hope for the best, and take steps now to keep your business going. In the words of President Barack Obama in his 2009 inaugural address: “With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come.”

Preparing Your Business for the Coronavirus

Nurse with Blood Sample

The current strain of coronavirus, known as 2019-nCoV, is part of the same family of viruses that includes the common cold and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). There are now three confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the UK and the outbreak has spread across China and to at least 18 countries globally.

If the new strain of coronavirus follows the same pattern as the SARS outbreak in 2003, it may be that the impact on the UK is quite limited. Coronavirus is not, however, an issue that employers can just ignore. At present, the risk level is assessed as being low to moderate, but the situation is evolving all the time.

What can I do to keep my workplace and employees safe?

Providing a safe and healthy workplace for employees is a legal requirement and employers should consider the following:

  • In general terms, the government advice is for people who may be infected by the coronavirus to take simple, common-sense steps to avoid close contact with other people as much as possible, much as they would with other flu viruses.
  • If any employees are required to travel to China, employers should be sure to follow up-to-date government advice (see advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office). Consideration should be given to cancelling visits to affected areas and assessing whether any meetings could be done via electronic means such as Skype or other online video meetings instead.
  • Business continuity plans should be reviewed.
  • Where employees have recently returned from China, consider allowing them to work from home until it is certain that they are not infected.
  • Good hygiene standards should be enforced across businesses with clear hand-washing instructions displayed in kitchens and bathrooms.
  • In the event that coronavirus spreads rapidly in the UK, employers will have to review sickness absence policies and add instructions to follow if employees believe they may have been exposed to the virus.

Advice on infection prevention and control for healthcare providers, including care homes, can be found here on the GOV.UK website.

Updated on 6 February 2020 with new number of confirmed cases in the UK.

New Draft Regulations on Mandatory Electrical Safety Checks

Electrical Checks

Further to our blog post in October last year (which can be found here), the Government has now published The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020, which impose duties on private landlords of residential properties in England in respect of electrical safety standards.

These regulations require approval from both houses of parliament before they are made into law.

Most tenancies are caught by the regulations, although a number of tenancies including long leases, tenancies granting a right of occupation for a term of seven or years or more, social or resident landlords, holiday lettings, care homes, and licences for lodgers (where the occupier is sharing accommodation with the landlord) are excluded. The draft regulations require private landlords in England to:

  • Ensure that the electrical safety standards (the standards for electrical installations in the 18th edition of the Institution of Engineering and Technology wiring regulations (BS7671:2018)) are met when the premises are let under a tenancy;
  • Ensure that a qualified person inspects and tests every electrical installation in the premises at intervals of no more than 5 years and produces a report to the landlord (some reports only last a year and so landlords will need to check the length of the report before commissioning a report);
  • Carry out the first inspection and test before a tenancy commences on or after 1 July 2020 and before 1 April 2021 for existing tenancies (entered into before the date this legislation comes into force);
  • For existing tenancies, supply a copy of the report to each tenant within 28 days, and if requested by the local housing authority, within 7 days of request;
  • Supply a copy of the most recent report to a new tenant before occupation, or any prospective tenant within 28 days of a request from the prospective tenant;
  • Keep a copy of the report and give it to the person carrying out the next inspection; and
  • Carry out further investigative or remedial work within 28 days of the report or within the period specified in the report and supply written confirmation of completion of such further investigative or remedial work to the tenant and local housing authority within 28 days of this work being carried out.

If landlords fail to carry out further investigative or remedial work (where the work is not urgent) the local housing authority will serve a ‘remedial notice’ on the landlord. The landlord then has 28 days to make the improvements or will be given 21 days to object.

If the landlord doesn’t make the necessary improvements or the remedial work is urgent, the local housing authority can access the property with the tenants’ permission to do the work. If the tenants refuse access, the landlord will not be in breach of this requirement. Landlords have the right to appeal against the decision of the local housing authority to take that remedial action.

Landlords who fail to comply with the regulations are liable to face fines of up to £30,000.

The regulations also seek to amend the electrical safety regulations which currently affect Houses in Multiple Occupation (‘HMOs’) in England to propose new mandatory conditions for licenses to ensure that every electrical installation is in proper working order and safe for continued use.

It has been indicated that the Welsh Government is currently working on producing its own regulations setting out the standards expected of rental properties under The Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 and that regulations will require that a property is only fit if a landlord has:

  • Installed working carbon monoxide and smoke alarms; and
  • Undertaken an electrical safety test at least every five years.

In light of the draft regulations for England, the standards will be similar.

Here at Simply-Docs we will keep the progress of the draft regulations under review and will produce any necessary updates and/or content in due course.

Fire Safety – Changes to Statutory Guidance – Approved Document B of the Building Regulations

Approved Documents are statutory guidance published by the Government on how to meet the Building Regulations for building work carried out in England only.

The Government has published changes to Approved Document B (Volumes 1 and 2) of the Building Regulations, which deals with fire safety. These changes come into force on 21 January 2019.

Approved Document B Volume 1 deals with dwellinghouses.

Approved Document B Volume 2 deals with buildings other than dwellinghouses.

The changes to Approved Document B seek to clarify the role of desktop fire safety assessments.

In the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, a consultation took place in 2018 to consider whether the use of desktop assessments (in the absence of full fire safety tests) to assess fire safety regulatory compliance should be restricted or indeed banned entirely.

The amendments state that desktop assessments in lieu of tests are only to be used where necessary and are to be carried out in an appropriate way. Desktop assessments should not be used instead of tests where a test is necessary. Tests and assessments should be carried out by organisations with the requisite expertise and qualifications.

The Government has launched a Call for Evidence for a broader technical review on the guidance of fire safety (Approved Document B). Landlords, builders, developers, residents, and property managers are all invited to respond. The consultation closes on 1 March 2019.

Call for Evidence on Improving Building Safety

The Government has published a Call for Evidence – ‘Good practice on how residents and landlords/ building managers work together to keep their home and building safe’. Landlords, building managers, and residents are all encouraged to respond.

This Call for Evidence invites views on how residents and landlords/building managers work together to keep their buildings safe and ensure that all parties comply with their respective responsibilities.

The purpose of the Call for Evidence is to gather evidence to assess and examine the development of policy relating to resident and landlord/building manager engagement and collaboration in relation to fire and structural safety issues in the aftermath of the tragic event at Grenfell Tower. The aim is to ensure that there is a robust regulatory system for the future and to ensure that residential buildings are safe and remain so; however, it remains to be seen to what extent the Government will change the existing regime.

The questions are split into two sections, the first directed to residents, the second to organisations (landlords, building managers, and estate agencies, for example). Those who are both residents and landlords or managing agents should complete both parts of the questionnaire. Respondents are encouraged to respond through the online survey.

Responses must be given by 12 February 2019.

As a landlord or agent, do you find the existing regulations and arrangements allow you to manage fire safety risks in buildings effectively? Would greater collaboration between all parties involved make it easier to manage and ensure the safety of residential buildings?

Have your say in the Call for Evidence and share your thoughts with us below.

How Much Money Could Effective Waste Management and Recycling Save Your Business?

In April 2016, landfill tax reached £84.40 per tonne. Apart from the direct cost, complying with the wide array of environmental regulations makes dealing with commercial waste even more expensive. So learning how to use your resources more efficiently and reducing waste is something that can help save your business a significant amount of money.

With that thought in mind, here’s our guide to effective waste management and the associated cost-saving benefits.

Reducing Waste in Your Business

If you have only just begun to think about how your business can reduce waste, it’s best to start small and build from there. This way, you can begin introducing structured tasks into your business’ processes that will help you work towards a culture of waste reduction – rather than just disposal.

To help get you underway, here are some waste reduction ideas for three common types of businesses: offices, restaurants and manufacturing.

In Your Office

Did you know that printer ink is one of the most expensive liquids in the world? As such, simple rules designed to reduce ink wastage are a great idea. For example, programming printers to print in black and white rather than colour, and encouraging your employees to view documents on their desktop as much as possible, can save your business a considerable amount of money.

Recycling one tonne of paper saves approximately 682.5 gallons of oil, 26,500 litres of water and 17 trees. Recycling paper in your office can also save you money. Reusing envelopes and incoming packaging, and converting pieces of scrap paper into notepaper, are all tactics used widely by ‘green-thinking’ offices.

In Your Restaurant

The UK’s Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) released a Too Good to Waste report that estimated restaurants could save more than £2,000 a year by reducing food wastage by 20%. Preparing food only when it’s ordered and regularly monitoring use-by dates are both processes you can introduce to help manage food waste better.

In relation to reducing packaging waste, there are several simple changes you can make. For instance, you can request that your suppliers package all your stock in recyclable materials. Or, if you have a takeaway restaurant, you can make an effort not to over-package the food that leaves your shop.

In Your Manufacturing Business

For manufacturing companies, the inefficient use of raw materials and waste disposal costs between 5 and 10% of total turnover. Faced with this statistic, the cost-saving potential of more effective waste management for manufacturing businesses is obvious.

Taking a ‘buy only what you need’ approach to stock control and procurement can save you money on purchasing unneeded materials. Equally, reviewing your business processes to ensure all equipment and materials are being used as efficiently as possible is a great way to keep costs down.

Your Legal Responsibilities as a Business

All businesses are legally responsible for managing their own waste. If you’re a business owner, the restrictions on what you can – and cannot – send to landfill are often stricter than for residential waste.

What’s more, you can face financial penalties if you do not handle waste according to legislation, or if you don’t have the right paperwork in place before it leaves your premises.

If you would like further information on waste legislation and regulations for businesses, take a look at this government guidance.

Final Thoughts

The amount of money you can save through effective waste management will differ from business to business. However, if there are currently deficiencies in your business’ waste management strategy, there are considerable savings that can be made.

If you’re hoping to make your business more efficient, Simply-Docs can help. We have a wide selection of customisable ready-to-use documents that will enable you to protect your business, while managing your legal and compliance requirements.

You can browse through our complete range of documents by clicking here. Or to speak to one of our staff about how we can help your business keep up with legislation – contact us today.

Has Health & Safety Gone Mad?

ealth and Safety Gone Mad

When you work for a company or run your own business, you have to adhere to a long list of rules and regulations in the name of health and safety.

In the right hands, such rules are crucial for preventing accident or injury in the workplace. In the wrong hands, however, many view safety legislation as a tool that is used by bosses to help enforce unpopular decisions.

Consequently, the reputation of health and safety in this country has suffered. Here, we take a look at some of the most well-publicised health and safety stories of recent times in a bid to answer the question: has health and safety gone mad?

There’s Something in The Water

In 2011, Fife Today reported that Fife Sports and Leisure Trust introduced rules that forbid swimming instructors from getting in the pool with children they were teaching to swim. Instead, the leisure centre asked their instructors to supervise only from the side of the pool, over concerns they might otherwise miss a child in trouble.

On a similar theme, in 2010, The Daily Mail reported that a father-of-two was told he could only swim with one of his children at Coventry Sports and Leisure Centre. The reason? It was feared that, if he were to swim with both of his children at the same time, they might not receive the required supervision needed to keep them safe.

Has health and safety gone mad?

In the case of the Fife Sports and Leisure Trust, it appears the decision was made because it was deemed that swimming instructors would be able to supervise children more easily if they were stood at the side of the pool. In the case of Coventry Sports and Leisure Centre, the Coventry Sports Trust, which runs the leisure centre in question, claimed to be following national guidelines.

Health and safety around water is obviously a good idea, and teaching children to swim is something that can help prevent them from drowning in youth and later life. On reflection, then, perhaps these two stories are not as ludicrous as they might first appear?

Food for Thought

This one comes from the vault of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and involves a burger.

Picture the scene: a customer is queuing at a burger van and overhears the person in front of them ask the vendor if they could cut a burger in half, as it was for a child. The vendor refuses, replying, “Can’t do that – health and safety. We’re just not allowed to do that.” The customer accepts the excuse and the burger is left in one whole.

Has health and safety gone mad?

Unsurprisingly, the HSE couldn’t find any law that prevented catering professionals from using a knife to cut food. Consequently, it seems that the burger vendor in this story was using health and safety as a convenient shield against doing something that they didn’t want to do.

Staff Banned from Drinking Tea or Coffee

Can you imagine trying to get through a working day without a regular fix of caffeine? As reported by The Independent and many other newspapers, this was the stark reality that medics and staff members at three NHS hospitals in Leicester faced, after they were banned from drinking tea and coffee in public areas in 2014.

Has health and safety gone mad?

The ban generated a significant level of negative press, largely because access to tea and coffee is seen by many to be a given right for every worker. However, in many hospitals, employees are only allowed to consume hot drinks in the staff room for health and safety reason, so the ban would appear to make sense on that level.

What’s more, if you take a closer look at the story, the reality is that the ban was introduced following complaints the consumption of hot drinks gave the impression that staff are not working hard enough.

How the NHS is run in this country is a topic that receives a lot of public scrutiny. As a result, even though the banning of tea and coffee might appear crazy at first, if the hospitals in question were seen to be doing nothing after receiving complaints, would the ramifications have been even worse?

How Much Does It Cost to Change a Lightbulb?

In 2011, after an accident involving a ladder, Stoke-on-Trent City Council introduced a ‘working-at-height’ policy, which essentially banned the use of ladders. According to The Express, the change meant that the council’s bill for scaffolding increased by approximately £1 million in just a year, as workers were continually forced to hire contractors to erect scaffolding just to change a lightbulb.

Has health and safety gone mad?

At first glance, the headline of spending £1 million to change lightbulbs appears to be ludicrous. However, almost a fifth of all falls from height at work are caused by the misuse of ladders. So, if using a ladder to change a lightbulb is deemed dangerous, wouldn’t it be more sensible to use scaffolding instead?

When viewed from this perspective, it makes you think that perhaps some of the newspapers were attracted to the story solely because of the catchy headlines it created.

Final Thoughts

The idea that health and safety has gone mad in this country is a popular one. However, on reflection, it seems that many of the most widespread stories relating to this subject might have been blown out of proportion to create eye-catching headlines.

There are exceptions, of course. Blatant misuses of health and safety law can – and do – occur. However, the creation of most safety laws are done with the best intentions.

It doesn’t matter what sort of business you are; effective health and safety management is essential. It can reduce accidents and losses, decrease absenteeism and help efficiency – all of which, in combination, can help boost your profits.

At Simply-Docs, we provide a huge selection of fully customisable, ready-to-use documents that are ideal for businesses. Our range of health & safety documents include risk assessment forms, fire safety documents, food hygiene paperwork, and many more documents that make health and safety management for businesses much easier.

For more information about how our services can save you money, contact our friendly team today.

10 Essential Tips for Starting Your Own Restaurant

Tables outside restaurant.

Image by Skitter Photo

Many people dream of opening up their own restaurants, but very few are brave enough to take the plunge. That’s not surprising – any restauranteur will tell you that starting a restaurant isn’t easy. And, while the oft-quoted statistic that 90% of restaurants fail in their first year is not actually true, it is a fact that opening a restaurant is not a business venture for anyone looking to get rich quick.

Still, new restaurants are opening in the UK every day. With the right business idea, a bit of expertise, some start-up funding and a lot of hard work, there’s no reason you can’t make your own restaurant succeed.

To help get you started, here are our top 10 tips to starting a restaurant.

  • 1.     Be realistic

Ah, to be a restaurateur. Long lunches over a bottle of wine. Friendly regulars who are always smiling. Escaping the nine-to-five grind. What’s not to love?

If you think running a restaurant is going to be anything like that, think again. That’s the fantasy; the reality is very different. If you already work in the restaurant industry, you’ll know this. If you don’t, go get some experience. If you don’t fancy quitting your day job to wait tables and wash dishes, then the realities of running a restaurant probably aren’t for you.

  • 2.     Decide what type of restaurant you want

Ethnic eatery or traditional British fare? Family friendly or more for the millennials? Fine dining or fast food? Before you do anything, you need to have a clear idea of your restaurant concept.

By far the most important thing about your restaurant concept is that it’s something you’re passionate about and can honestly imagine devoting yourself to, day in and day out, for years to come. Be honest with yourself and what your skills and interests are, and don’t try to jump on any food trend bandwagons just because they’re popular at the moment.

  • 3.     Do your research

Once you’ve got a restaurant concept in mind, it’s time to research its viability. Where should your restaurant be located? Is there a market for your concept there? What is the competition like? And how much do business rentals in the area cost?

You might have to adjust your initial concept at this stage – in fact, you almost certainly will. Just ensure that you don’t end up wandering too far from your original idea without realising, in the spirit of making compromises. It’s surprisingly easy to do.

  • 4.     Learn about the rules and regulations

If you’re not one for paperwork, forget about starting and running your own restaurant. Before starting a restaurant, there are a number of regulatory hoops that have to be jumped through – from registering your business with the local authority to ensuring your staff have the right food hygiene certificates.

Fortunately, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) have a number of useful resources to help get you started, including a guide to starting a food business and a Safer Food, Better Business for Caterers information pack.

  • 5.     Write a business plan

A comprehensive business plan is essential to ensuring that you stay on budget and on track. It should include market research and financial information, and provide anyone reading it with an in-depth understanding of your business idea, not to mention the initial start-up costs and long-term financial forecasts involved.

If, at the end of compiling your business plan, you realise your start-up costs are sky high, go back and refine it further until it seems more manageable. A sound financial plan is essential to the next step.

  • 6.     Secure start-up capital

Whether you’re launching a Michelin restaurant or a hot dog stand, a restaurant is always going to require significant start-up capital – enough to cover initial costs and at least six months of running costs.

Ideally, you’ll be able to cover these initial costs using your own savings, or with the help of loans from friends or family, but if this isn’t an option then you’re going to need a business partner or bank loan. Whatever the case, this is where having an airtight business plan is of paramount importance – no one is going to invest in someone whose numbers don’t add up.

  • 7.     Hire the right people

A restaurant owner can’t do everything at once, so bring a great team on board who are just as passionate and excited about this project as you are.

In particular, take your time when it comes to finding the right chef. Your restaurant is only as good as the food it serves, and if your chef can’t deliver, no amount of marketing or quality service can compensate for that.

  • 8.     Get the restaurant ready to launch

Once you’ve signed a lease on a property, it can be tempting to rush preparations and open your doors to the paying public at once. But you only get one chance to make a first impression – so hold fire, and make sure you get it right.

If your restaurant needs any renovations or alterations, get them done now. Use this time to make sure that everything’s up to code. And decorate the interior and exterior to ensure that they accurately reflect your restaurant concept and create an inviting ambience.

  • 9.     Make a menu

Work together with your head chef to create the perfect menu. Try to keep it short and sweet – it’ll keep your kitchen running smoothly and food waste to a minimum, and customers generally find long menus overwhelming anyway.

It is advisable to provide at least some options for customers with dietary requirements, or at the very least to clearly mark which dishes can be adapted to accommodate special diets if required.

  • 10.  Get ready for hard work

Once the restaurant is open, say goodbye to weekends and holidays for the foreseeable future. The hard work doesn’t end here; in fact, it’s only just begun. As the owner, it’ll be your job to keep the hundreds of plates required to keep your restaurant running spinning – from marketing and hiring staff to tapering menus and filing taxes.

But, if you love the restaurant business, it’ll all be worth it.

How can Simply-Docs help?

Starting a business is difficult enough, so why waste time and money drafting complicated documents or paying a solicitor to do it for you? At Simply-Docs, we provide a wide range of fully customisable, ready-to-use documents that are ideal for entrepreneurs.

Restaurateurs may be particularly interested in our employment documents, which include all the policies, forms, letter templates and employment contracts necessary to recruit, manage and dismiss employees. We also offer a variety of health and safety documents, plus food and hygiene documents which include all the H&S documents and templates a restauranteur will need when starting a business,

For more information about our services, contact our friendly team today.

Builders And Clients: Are You Prepared For CDM Regulations 2015?

The new Construction Design and Management (CDM) Regulations 2015 are now in force. Statistically there are more injuries and fatalities on smaller, previously unregulated building projects than on larger ones. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has decided to address this issue by requiring all projects to have someone overseeing health, safety and welfare in both the pre-start and construction phases.

What does the Builder need to know?

From 6th April 2015, every job, including domestic work, will now require a CDM Principal Contractor (PC) who will take overall control for the day-to-day running of the project. This is the same whether you are a building company with in-house tradesmen or a one-man band that brings in traders as needed. Someone will have to be appointed by the client as Principal Contractor.

The builder – now called the Principal Contractor has a range of duties to fulfil on all projects, large or small, including:

•  The builder must prepare a Construction Phase Health and Safety Plan.The builder needs to be certain that the contractors they employ are competent, not only to do their job, but from a health and safety perspective as well. Price is always an important factor, but the Principal Contractor will need to be happy that the chosen subbie is able to carry out their works safely without making shortcuts.

• The Principal Contractor will need to make sure that someone responsible is on site at all times, for example, a trusted sub-contractor foreman. No matter who is left in charge – the Principal Contractor is responsible if they allow shortcuts to   be taken or the agreed procedures to be bypassed.

For more detailed information on the Principal Contractor’s duties please click here for our Simply-Docs information page on Construction (Design & Management) (CDM) Regulations 2015 for Builders.

What does the Client need to know?

Under the regulations, non-domestic clients will have much more direct responsibility than before.  In addition, some building works that you may have assumed would be regarded as “domestic” will now fall within the scope of the regulations. A “non-domestic client” is a person or a company who is having the works done as part of a commercial enterprise. That could be a business building, a new factory or office extension, or a residential or commercial landlord refitting some of their rental properties. Building an office at the end of your garden in order to work from home would make you a non-domestic client. As a rule: if the client will get a business income from the works, they are a non-domestic client.

The practical impact of these regulations is that non-domestic clients will now have even more legal duties in respect of health and safety on-site and more clients will fall into the non-domestic category.

The non-domestic client’s new duties include:

•  The client is now required to make sure that health and safety has been factored into the project, and that sufficient funding has been allowed in the budget for this.

•  The client must appoint, in writing, a Principal Designer (PD) to oversee the design and planning of the project, to put in place all the health and safety procedures, and to create (or at least organise) the Health and Safety File.

•  The client must ensure that both the PD and PC are competent to carry out their role.

If the client doesn’t appoint either a PD or PC, the duties of both will become the client’s by default, so it really is in the client’s best interest to surround themselves with suitably qualified professionals to help them through the process.

The client has many additional duties, for more information on these duties, please click here for our Simply-Docs information page on What Duties Does The Client Have Under The CDM Regulations 2015?

By Iain Mackintosh

CDM Regulations Changes in 2015: What Do They Mean for You?

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Image by NAIT

The new Construction Design and Management Regulations 2015 (CDM) are expected to come into force from 6th April 2015.  Previously, if you were a domestic client having building work done, this would have little impact on you, as you would probably expect the builder to take responsibility for health and safety on the project. Now, once the new legislation is in place, more clients are likely to fall under the banner of “non-domestic client” and subject to a raft of additional health and safety responsibilities.

For example, if you are contemplating having a workshop or garden office built at the end of your garden, or perhaps you are a residential landlord refitting a rental property, then under this new legislation you will be a “non-domestic client” and subject to the increased health and safety duties that that entails.

As a rule – if you are getting a business income from the works, then you will be having the works done as part of a commercial enterprise and you will be deemed a non-domestic client.

CDM Regulations Explained: Why Are the Changes Being Made?

Statistically there are more injuries and fatalities on smaller, previously unregulated building projects than on larger ones. The HSE has decided to address this issue by requiring all projects to have someone overseeing health, safety and welfare, in both the pre-start and construction phases.

Accordingly, the aim of the CDM Regs. 2015 is to place increased responsibility on the three main parties in a building project – the client, the designer and the builder. The practical impact of these regulations is that non-domestic clients will now have even more legal duties in respect of health and safety on site and more clients will fall into the non-domestic category.

One of the new duties is that the non-domestic client will be required to make sure that health and safety has been factored into their project, and that sufficient funding has been allowed in the budget for such health and safety considerations – and there are many more.

For more information on the CDM Regs. 2015 please see the Simply-Docs information pages.

By Iain Mackintosh

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