Beer vouchers are within law

Q I had the idea to offer kids "buy your dad a beer" vouchers around Fathers' Day. The reaction I got from mums in the store was brilliant. But is it legal?

A An idea as neat as that one is almost guaranteed to fall foul of some legislation, guideline or diktat - but on this occasion we're delighted to report that you have the green light.

OLN legal expert Peter Coulson says: "I think it's all right. You are selling something which can only be used by a person over 18, and as long as you put that on the voucher - which is a very good idea - I think it's OK."

Independents could probably do a lot more voucher business and with desktop publishing so accessible these days, there's no reason why you couldn't produce some professional-looking themed vouchers for all sorts of occasions.

You'll obviously need a strategy to make it hard to cheat the system and if you don't think of this, you run the risk of some smart Alec simply photocopying your voucher and putting you out of business.

You could hand-sign all vouchers, or give them serial numbers, or write the name of the authorised recipient on each one you sell. The voucher would then only be redeemed if you were satisfied the customer was genuine.

Q I have been told I need to carry out a health and safety risk assessment for my shop. Is this really necessary? It's just an ordinary off-licence with no obvious hazards for staff or customers.

A The Health & Safety Executive and the British Retail Consortium have recently published guidance for convenience stores and newsagents which is broadly applicable to


It suggests you take a tour of the premises and ancillary rooms to identify potential risks, and discuss them with staff.

Pregnant staff may require particular attention and, since off-licences are more prone than other retail sectors to abusive and violent customers, it's important that staff are prepared for what may confront them.

BRC health and safety policy adviser Annabel Berdy says: "Managers of convenience stores and newsagents have an incredibly busy and diverse role.

"Dealing with something as complex as health and safety law in between ­making orders and stacking shelves can be a tough task, particularly in the past when there has been a genuine lack of clear and accessible advice on the subject," she adds.

"The BRC felt it was important to ­contribute to the development of this guidance so that independent retailers could benefit from the combined knowledge of some of the major players in the industry."

The new guidance can be found at

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