COVID-19: So can car dealers go back to work on the 1st June?

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There was much anticipation about Boris’ Sunday evening announcement. However, it told us little and confused a lot. On Monday, more documentation was released to provide detail and Boris gave his address in the Commons. 

From this, it appears that while car showrooms must still remain shut (although they can take and process orders over the phone/internet), dealerships should be able to open up alongside other ‘non-essential’ retailers on the 1st June 2020.

Assuming infection rates do not go up, dealers need to start preparing to open their doors as there is a lot to consider. 

Social distancing measures 


All dealerships must undertake a written risk assessment which considers all the social distancing in the workplace measures as set out in guidance:


If you haven't sorted your workplace social distancing signage here's some ideas from our friends from Pure Driven Marketing.


There is further 'working safely' guidance was issued on Monday evening for ‘Shops and branches’ that will become relevant to car showrooms when the lockdown is lifted: 


And guidance for ‘Factories, plants and warehouses’ which is relevant to garages:


Each guide highlights the need for risk assessment and management, we have previously published a legal update on conducting risk assessment for the pandemic situations with suggested document templates.

The guides describe the detailed measures the businesses are expected to implement and explain how to manage the risks, including for staff members risk assessed as vulnerable or extremely vulnerable to the virus.

Test Drives


One glaring issue to be considered as part of your Covid risk assessment is how you might conduct test drives. You may decide to allow customers to take test drives solo which may open up non-Covid risks. 

We covered this in a recent article 'Required documentation for test drives' and since then, we have almost sold out of our test drive pads as dealers look to reduce their exposure to financial loss but also increase due diligence.      

Distance Sales & Click and Collect


Although showrooms have to be shut, there is currently room in the legislation for delivering cars under Distance Sales Schemes and for allowing customers to Click and Collect. The above social distancing guidance sets out how this should be operated and can be incorporated into your risk assessments for now and, if you continue with delivery and click and collect models once you open fully:

Shops running a pick-up or delivery service

You should ensure that no orders are taken in person on the premises. You should only take orders online or by telephone and communicate this to customers by clear signage in store and online.

The advice on social distancing measures applies to everyone and you should take steps to avoid crowding and minimise opportunities for the virus to spread by maintaining a distance of 2 metres between individuals, wherever possible.

Bringing people off furlough 


We have to remind employers that employees cannot do any work while furloughed. This will mean dealers will want to start to take employees off furlough to start preparing showrooms to open for business. You can ask for volunteers if you do not need everyone back but anyone on furlough should return to work when you ask them to. There may be genuine reasons which will mean someone can’t or does not want to return and so please call us to discuss as in some cases this could mean extended furlough, in other cases it could mean making that person redundant or simply dismissing them. Employees do have the general right to refuse to work if they believe the working environment is not safe but, if the Government do confirm the green light to open and you have completed your risk assessment and put all your social distance measures in place, the workplace will be as safe as it can be and the employee will need to return with limited exceptions such as if they are shielding or have coronavirus symptoms.  

An option if someone does not want to come back is to put them on annual leave. You can do this either by agreement or by giving them twice as much notice as the period of leave and so for one week’s leave, you need to give two weeks’ notice and for two weeks leave, four weeks’ notice. You can still claim your 80% from the Government against annual leave but you do have to top the wages up to 100%.  This could be a cost effective way of managing future holidays. 

If you bring someone back from furlough but find business is slower than anticipated, you can re-furlough them as long as the new period is for at least 3 weeks. 

You can download our  Notice of Furlough Termination Template Letter for free.

Redundancies


Inevitably, there will be redundancies and employers should start to consider if there are people who could be made redundant. We have a more detailed update on this but it is worth considering earlier rather than later as you can use your 80% furlough grant to pay the notice period. You will still need to pay any redundancy payment (only if they have been employed more than two years) but you can reduce the cost to you, by using furlough for the notice period. 

In summary, if you haven’t started already, it is time to give this some serious thought and as ever, we are available to discuss your indivdual circumstances and be your sounding board via our member’s Legal Helpline - 01480 455500. 

 

Authors: Nona Bowkis

Published: 11 May 2020

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