The word ‘compliance’ might be viewed as a dirty term by many publicans. Staff and pub managers want to concentrate on serving a good pint and being jovial front-of-house hosts rather than spending hours filling out paperwork to meet regulatory obligations.
However, the list of back-of-house legal requirements that need to be met are there to ensure pubs can trade safely so, despite the seemingly endless red tape nightmare, they simply cannot be ignored.
And that is before we mention the high turnover of staff in the industry, which creates a challenge in meeting compliance rules for any pub operator.
National licensing firm Poppleston Allen warns that there is a vast amount of regulation that applies to operators which carry their own risk and varied enforcement procedures.
“The pub sector has a lot to consider when evaluating whether or not it is ‘compliant’,” says Hannah Price, associate solicitor at Poppleston Allen.
“What is now a certainty is that the cost of getting this wrong is now much higher than ever before. It is, therefore, far better to invest the time and money from the outset in getting this right and maintaining compliance in all areas, rather than risking getting it wrong and facing enforcement consequences.”
She argues that the financial penalties for failing to comply are often far higher than the cost of implementing any initial preventative compliance measures.
Poppleston Allen highlights five areas where licensees need to ensure they are compliant – premises licences, health & safety, fire safety, food safety and noise nuisance.
No pub can operate without a premises licence. It defines the operation in relation to licensable activities such as hours of operation. Price warns that failure to adhere to the provisions may lead to enforcement action for breach of licence, which could result in criminal proceedings.
On health & safety and fire compliance, operators are warned to have policies in place, risk assessments, safe systems of work and staff training to create a culture of compliance in the premises.
Food safety compliance also requires systems to be in place for food hygiene, temperature controls, stock rotation and control of allergens.
Poppleston Allen also highlights the issue of noise levels inside and outside the building. Environmental health officers have a duty to investigate complaints of alleged statutory noise nuisance, Price warns.
Another area where compliance is essential is with the provision of alcohol sales such as not serving alcoholic drinks to those who are underage or people who are drunk. This is an area where both licensees and staff need strong training.
Watch and learn
National Pubwatch (NPW), the um-brella organisation for local Pubwatch schemes, has targeted these compliance issues with a series of short films, which are available on its YouTube channel. These are designed to help local Pubwatch schemes and licensees understand their obligations and point them in the right direction for advice. NPW has plans for more short films with the next looking at conflict management and how to preserve a crime scene.
“The main criticism in relation to pubs is about people harming themselves because of violence related to alcohol and underage sales,” says NPW chair Steve Baker.
“They all point the finger at the on-sale element rather than the off-sale. That is why we started producing films to signpost licensees to where that can get the information that they need.”
While these videos help both licensees and staff understand best practice there are also a range of qualifications and courses to help those in the industry know their obligations.
CPL Online offers a range of courses to help ensure compliance with legal requirements. The online system means that operators can use it to not only provide a range of online learning and development tools but also to track individual and site level performance to ensure all regulatory thresholds are met.
“Given the increasing regulatory requirements placed upon operators, it has never been more important to ensure, site by site, team member by team member, that all necessary training has been undertaken and remains valid,” says David Dasher, chief technical officer at CPL Online.
“It is not enough to simply make the courses available, operators need to be able to provide evidence that the courses have been taken properly and in a timely manner. To that end, CPL Online has produced a suite of products
that track course usage, including measuring time taken, active learning, not just having a screen open, and even time spent on an individual question to weed out dubious behaviour.”
BIIAB offers a range of courses from recognising underage sales, health and safety though to food safety.
Oliver Taylor, head of qualifications at BIIAB, says that there are mandatory courses such as the Award for Personal Licence Holders (APLH).
“We offer a number of other qualifications such as underage sales and designated premises supervisor, most of which are non-mandatory and are not a legal requirement,” says Taylor.
But he argues that by taking other recognised qualifications, licensees can help to protect the business as they prove due diligence.
While serving the customer that perfect pint is the aim for any licensee, making sure that both the pub and staff are well-trained is crucial. The raft of regulations and compliance issues may feel like negotiating a maze of red tape, but meeting them needs to be taken seriously as failure to comply can have drastic consequences.