As a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it is increasingly difficult for companies to carry on with business as usual. From international travel bans and supply chain disruption to IT systems and work premises, Business West aims to help businesses navigate the disruption and ensure business continuity by providing answers to a range of widely asked questions.
How should I approach my communications strategy as a result of COVID-19?
How are planning applications being dealt with?
The registration of planning applications is continuing as normal with some anticipated delays as staff adapt to remote working. We are aware that some Local Authorities have started holding virtual meetings and undertaking virtual site visits.
The Coronavirus Bill includes provisions to temporarily allow Councils to hold planning committees and other meetings (including parish council meetings) without the councillors being physically present. This enables remote participation and voting. It also allows alterations to the location, timing and frequency of such meetings. These provisions will end on 7 May 2021, although the Bill will be re-considered and voted on by Parliament every six month.
Local Authorities are currently awaiting advice from the Secretary of State regarding how and when video conferencing will be rolled out. It is likely that the timeframes between Local Authorities will vary.
We are aware that Local authorities are considering their options regarding decision making. Some Local Authorities are already preparing emergency powers to delegate decision making to, for example, a Chief Executive consulted by lead members. Other Local Authorities are looking at measures to extent the determination period for applications.
Discharge of conditions
It is expected that there may be some delays in discharge of conditions.
Regarding all of the above, please contact your Local Planning Authority to confirm their specific arrangements.
How are planning appeals being dealt with?
The Planning Inspectorate are currently processing Written Representation Appeals and are considering alternative measures such as video conferencing for the processing of Hearings and Public Inquiries. We anticipate further guidance on this shortly and will update this page once further information is available.
Will airports and seaports remain open to ship goods?
UK seaports remain open. Operators state their intention to stay operational through the crisis subject, to evolving government guidance. The UK government updated its official guidance for seaports on COVID-19 on 19 March. This focuses on procedures for reporting and processing of cases in marine settings.
The global shipping industry reports disruption to freight movements, particularly to vessels inbound from Asia. This follows from factory shutdowns and other disruptions to production and logistics.
Airports worldwide remain open to freight movements, subject to official guidance. But the disruption to passenger flights and personal travel has affected air freight. The reduction in passenger flights has forced up cargo rates for dedicated freight planes on some routes.
Will my business be able to send and receive goods internationally? And what happens to goods en route to countries with closed borders?
Some countries are restricting export of goods judged to be essential in the coronavirus crisis. The UK has banned certain medicines from parallel export (where goods intended for UK patients are sold overseas). The Department for International Trade has a dedicated Coronavirus web resource for companies that trade internationally. This includes a commitment to support importers find alternative overseas suppliers where supply chains are interrupted.
Will employees be able to travel in the UK or internationally?
Business should plan for an indefinite period of heavy restrictions to international travel across all regions of the globe. Official FCO guidance (correct as of 26/3/20): ‘As countries respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including travel and border restrictions, the FCO advises British nationals against all but essential international travel. Any country or area may restrict travel without notice.’
For travel within the UK, businesses should check in with official guidance and news alerts on social distancing and self-isolation rules. Government advice on movement is evolving by the day.
I am worried about leaving my business premise empty for an extended period. What safety measures should I take?
Note: answers based on Avon on Somerset Police advice. For their full guidance, see here.
The risk factor to your premises will naturally be dependent on a number of factors: area, local criminality, size, stock, security. To leave your unattended property protected, Avon and Somerset Police offer the below advice.
1. Review your property portfolio
Conduct a detailed security review of the property and land that you have responsibility for. Be systematic, reviewing your premises layer by layer, starting with the boundary and working your way inwards. Look for vulnerabilities and lock away any items that could be stolen, used as a climbing aide or targeted for arson.
2. Access and boundary treatments
Invest in a recognised security standard gate and locking mechanism, which is securely fixed to the ground and in alignment with the boundary fence. Ensure your boundary is security rated and high enough to deter someone from climbing over it. A minimum height of 2.1 metres is recommended.
3. Prevent vehicular access on to the site
A strong vehicle height restrictor can stop large vehicles entering your site. If the site is closed, you can prohibit vehicular access to the entrance/boundary by securing it with heavy-duty concrete blocks or security rated bollards.
In concert with ‘government coronavirus policies’, an SIA licensed security guard employed at the site could provide a permanent presence and quickly alert the authorities to any attempt to enter the property. The SIA website has additional advice on key worker status for the private security industry. Having a monitoring station with remote access to the site means police can be instantly notified upon an illegal entry, with or without a security presence on the site.
Ensure your CCTV system is an accredited system and positioned in a way that covers your premises and any vulnerable areas. Please ensure that your staff can operate the system in event of criminality. It should not be in a position where it can be easily attacked or removed.
There are also CCTV systems available that you can link to an App on your phone allowing you to monitor your buildings. Some of these possess a vocal capacity, which is tremendously beneficial because you can ‘communicate’ with any intruder.
Lighting affects behaviour. Ensure that your property has good lighting levels. We recommend constant low level dusk-till-dawn lighting which can be enhanced by motion detector lighting if needed.
5. Forensic marking
There are several property marking deterrents which can be used to enhance your security and protect your infrastructure and assets. These contain a unique traceable liquid/DNA code that can provide evidence of a vehicle or individual’s presence at your property..
Highly visible warning signs will show your property is protected and warn of the dangers or consequences of entering.
6. Protecting buildings within your site
Protect your doors and windows by using security accredited shutters or grilles. If using a security officer is not an option, consider using a timer switch to create ‘the illusion of occupancy’. Fit a monitored alarm to the building. This is a good deterrent and a variety of alarms are available.
Lock valuable products away from any shop floor or visible location. We recommend a safe, to the correct security and insurance accreditations, bolted to the floor and located in a safe and secluded location.
We are a shop that is staying open as we are providing a necessary service. What protections are there for our products and our staff?
Avon and Somerset Police have committed to providing a visible for those jobs that have to stay open. These shops and their employees are playing a vital public service under great pressure.
Patrol plans are being reviewed in order that particular attention will be played to key retailers. You can expect a robust policing response to any criminal offences committed at your stores or against your employees. Whenever possible, officers will call into stores to provide a highly visible presence and this will also be an opportunity for your employees to flag up any pressing concerns or issues.
You are encouraged to visit the official website of the Security Industry Authority (SIA) for details of how you can easily secure extra resources to cover your busiest times. You can find out more details here.
The National Business Centre has also issued all retailers with advice about crime prevention and protective measures retailers can take on behalf of their staff which can be found here.
My business is able to support the production of ventilators - who do I contact?
Can our business postpone the AGM?
The Business Secretary has confirmed that the government will put in place measures to ensure that companies required to hold annual general meetings can do so flexibly in a manner which is compatible with the best public health guidance. This might involve postponing or holding the AGM online or by phone using only proxy voting. We will update this page when further information is available.
My business can help provide PPE for the NHS – who do I contact?
Due to the current circumstances, I do not have the time for gender pay gap reporting this year. What can I do?
Due to the coronavirus outbreak, on 24th March the Government Equalities Office (GEO) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) took the decision to suspend enforcement of the gender pay gap deadlines for the 2019/20 reporting year.