Protests - how can I protect my business?

The last six months have seen an unusually high number of protests, demonstrations, and acts of civil disobedience. The causes of these protests have been varied, and actions have occurred across the country.

As a business owner, particularly in a city or large town, you might want to consider the potential impact of these events – and whether or not you need to take action to protect your premises.

Are there going to be more protests?

Definitely. A wide range of groups are already planning further actions, and it seems likely that these will continue for some time. Indeed, it is widely thought that the demonstrations will only increase in size and potential impact over the course of the next few months – particularly if we enjoy a relatively clement summer.

It is also worth noting that the anti-cuts and anti-tax avoidance movements are becoming increasingly localised. No longer are demonstrations staged only in London. Instead, campaigners are seeking smaller, local targets across the country. A quick look at the UKUncut website shows that actions have occurred in the past month in Manchester, Bristol, Norwich, Taunton, Sheffield, Bootle, and many others.

So, while disruption as a result of protests might not seem like a pressing concern for businesses that are not based in London, you should consider some basic steps that you can take to protect your business in the event of a demonstration.

How can I protect my premises?

The first and most important thing to note is that the vast majority of protests and demonstrations pass off with no problems whatsoever. We all have the right to protest, and nine times out of ten that right is exercised with little or no disruption to businesses or the public.

But, given some of the footage shown during the protests in London last week, it is not unreasonable for business owners to consider whether or not they need to take preventative action to make sure that their premises remain safe.

Here are a few tips to help minimise the impact of protests on your business.

  • Get the right information

    You should make every effort to get full and accurate information. In most cases protests are organised in coordination with the police, so you should speak to them first. You might also consider using the web to find out information yourself. Protests are generally very well publicised online, so you should be able to get a good idea of what is going on.

  • Decide if your business will be affected

    There are broadly two ways in which your business could be affected by protests. It could be that your premises are simply in the same area as a planned protest – or it could be that your business, or businesses of its type, is a direct target.

    If your business is set to be targeted by protesters, you need to take extra precautions. Actions like sit-ins are becoming increasingly common, and you may need to consider extra steps to minimise disruption.

  • Brief your staff

    It is very important that you brief your staff about the potential events, and provide them with some guidance about what they can expect and how they should react. By training your staff effectively you can help to minimise problems.

  • Consider closure

    In some circumstances, it may be wise to consider closing your business for the duration of the protests. You should understand, however, that business interruption insurance is unlikely to pay out if you close your business as a precautionary measure. More information on this is available below.

  • Reschedule meetings and deliveries

    Meetings, visits, and deliveries may all be disrupted by protest action. You should consider rescheduling these.

  • Consider physical protection

    Finally, if your premises is street-facing, or if you think you are likely to be targeted, you might consider installing physical protection like window boards.

What about insurance?

It is important that you understand what is and is not covered by your business premises insurance.

Generally speaking, business premises insurance will cover you against malicious damage. So, if someone throws a brick through your window, your insurance will probably pay out.

Confusion often arises when it comes to business interruption insurance, though. Business interruption only pays out if your business is forced to stop trading as a result of a material loss. So, if physical damage caused by a protest caused your business to close, your policy might pay out. But if you chose to close as a precautionary measure, business interruption insurance would generally not pay out. You should make sure that you read your policy documents carefully, and that you understand the terms of your insurance. Contact your insurer if you are in any doubt.