As a business owner, whether you own a shop, office, contracting business or any other business with clients in the UK, dealing with customers day in and day out can really be a mixed bag. Some are pleasant, others are great but there are some, as we all know, that can make our jobs and lives incredibly difficult.
From rude customers to intoxicated punters at your restaurant or pub, the UK’s law does give business owners the right to refuse service in certain situations and in line with certain ethical guidelines. But what exactly is the right to refuse service and how can you protect your business in cases where this is required? We’ve put together this guide to help.
What Is The Right To Refuse Service?
Here in the UK, there are countless laws and regulations surrounding the business world regardless of your industry, with some holding access to more than others. From statutory sick days to the Consumer Rights Act, there are countless rights and responsibilities for both businesses and their customers, and the right to refuse service is one of many.
At its core, the right to refuse service is exactly what the name suggests – Every business in the UK holds a right to refuse service to customers under certain conditions and providing they meet certain ethical guidelines, however, it’s not as simple as it sounds. Navigating this right can be difficult if you are unsure of how it works and one wrong decision could lead to expensive legal proceedings.
Generally speaking, some reasons that you might and can refuse service to a potential customer include:
- The person appears to be intoxicated, either by drink or drugs
- The person is behaving offensively
- The person is behaving violently
- The person does not conform to requirements for entry, e.g. standard of dress
- The person has shown adequate signs that:
- They can’t or won’t pay
- They are disorderly
- Are planning to beg for products or services
- The person has previously been convicted of drug use or selling
- The person has a reputation for being a thief, supplier of unlawful substances etc.
Other examples of refusal of service include during closed hours and when someone may be demanding a service that you do not provide. There are other situations where refusal of service can be used, including where the refused party is potentially putting people at risk. A recent example would be the right businesses had to refuse service to customers who refused to wear masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Any person authorised to refuse service within your premises or company can do so, which can and does include anything from the owner, to the manager, employees, security and more.
When Does This Not Apply?
Refusal of service on the above grounds is usually lawful, though should be handled professionally to reduce the risk of awkward or dangerous encounters with customers. There are, however, situations in which a refusal of service is not lawful and can even be deemed to be discriminatory. This Equality Act (2010) is designed to protect people in the UK from facing discrimination and when it comes to businesses, this means there are certain criteria you cannot use for refusal of service. The characteristics protected and therefore not lawful to use as reason for refusal of service include:
- Gender or Gender Reassignment
- Marriage or Civil Partnership
- Pregnancy or Maternity
- Religion and Beliefs
There are a few situations in which the above are grounds for refusal, typically where regulations are included. These could include age-restricted items such as alcohol or breach of dress codes where the person is wearing traditional religious wear but allowing them to proceed would be a health and safety risk.
These can be difficult situations to navigate, so it’s crucial that you and your staff are properly protected and well-trained to ensure that conflict is kept to a minimum and that no ethical guidelines are breached.
What Can I Do To Protect My Business?
When it comes to protecting your business from any repercussions following a refusal of service, there are a few things you can do. These include:
- Getting Professional Advice – Getting advice from a professional and regulated service in situations where you are unsure of your rights and whether they dip into the realm of discrimination, could help you not only navigate the situation properly but come up with solutions that you may not have thought of before.
- Get Insurance – The right insurance policy can protect your business in cases where a customer may feel slighted or harmed by your refusal of service and make a claim against you. Public Liability Insurance and Professional Indemnity Insurance can help protect most businesses in these cases. Ashburnham Insurance is on hand to help you find the right policy to suit your needs – simply get in touch with a member of our team.
- Get Training – All members of staff, including yourself, should be adequately trained in customer service and conflict resolution, as well as the guidelines that your business runs on and the regulations that you need to follow. This can prevent any issues from developing or avoid discrimination from any staff member.
For more information on insurance and how it can protect your business in conflict situations, get in touch with Ashburnham Insurance on FREEPHONE 0800 1696137.