The guidance designed to support retailers in complying with equality law takes the opportunity to remind retailers that the duty to make reasonable adjustments has not changed. Retailers are legally required to anticipate and make reasonable adjustments for disabled customers under the Equality Act 2010 and this has come sharply into focus since the start of the lockdown.
Whilst the open letter recognises the difficulties faced by retailers, it sets out the challenges faced by disabled people when shopping. The letter seeks the continued support of Britain's retailers to help make shopping a safe and positive experience. The guidance sets out simple steps retailers can take to comply with equality law in these unprecedented times:
- Provide a service that meets the needs of all customers – anticipate, prepare and make reasonable adjustments for disabled customers.
- Plan ahead to think about the needs of your disabled customers – consider and make changes to policies and procedures, as well as provide extra support and equipment, where necessary.
- Communicate with your customers – inform customers about how they will be supported through a variety of ways such as easy to read signs and spoken announcements.
- Train your staff – ensure that staff are supported with the right tools to help disabled customers, in line with the latest government guidelines on coronavirus (COVID-19).
Retailers have faced an incredibly challenging time throughout the pandemic and have had to make significant changes to their stores and online provision at very short notice to account for social distancing and safety, as well as making adjustments for the vulnerable. At one end of the spectrum we have sales downturns and temporary store closures, at the other grocery is seeing overwhelming demand. The latest guidance provides useful direction on some of the key action points for retailers although there remains limited guidance on what is reasonable when there is an overwhelming demand for priority that can't be easily met. The question of what is reasonable remains a challenging one and retailers should continually review the adjustments that they are making.