Inadequate business cover can cost an arm and a leg

Q One of my staff slipped off a step-ladder in the shop and needed

hospital attention for a knee injury. Is it true that the NHS can claim off my

insurance for the cost of treating her?

A If you are deemed responsible for the accident, yes. A dormant provision in the Health & Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003 has recently been activated. This allows the NHS in England and Wales to recover the costs of treating people who have suffered any sort of injury and who have successfully sued a negligent party for compensation.

If it were a pure fluke accident, you as an employer would be unaffected. But if a court rules that the stepladder was unsafe and you were responsible, you would face an NHS bill.

According to legal writer Adam Bernstein, "If for example, the NHS claim is for £30,000 and the employer's cover is worth only £25,000, the employer will be responsible for the remaining £5,000 of the claim,"

He warns that more than a million small and medium-sized companies do not have proper business insurance cover, and in such cases they are the ones that would foot the bill - at a potentially crippling cost to their businesses.

"The NHS's claim will be capped at £37,100," he says. "So the most serious cases, such as long-term treatment for fractures or stress-related conditions, will not lead to an indeterminate liability.

"But given that the cost of calling an ambulance is put by the government at £150, and the cost of daily hospital treatment is nearly £600, the impact will soon mount up. And what it means overall is that some employers will face not only the cost of paying compensation to the injured party, but the cost of treating that party for their physical and possibly

psychological injuries."

Q My shop is in a conservation area. Am I allowed to have steel shutters?

A You'll need to check with your

local authority, but in some cases the answer will be no. This is a major

headache for some shops trying to

protect themselves from burglars,

vandals and ram-raiders.

Indeed poor old Ali Canbolat of the Grape Vine off-licence in Hertford can't get insurance unless he keeps his

shutters - yet East Herts Council wants to serve an enforcement order that may lead to a prosecution if the shutters don't come down. Apparently they spoil the look of the area, and the council

reckons internal shutters or laminated glass would be more acceptable.

Q Is cachaça going to be the next big thing in the spirits market? I want to be ahead of the game!

A Hard to say, but in our view probably not. It's been lingering around the fringes of the UK drinks scene for some time, and it occasionally gets tipped for success, but sales figures don't indicate that it's anything more than a novelty.

Of course, it's the main ingredient in

a caipirinha cocktail (the others being

lime juice and sugar), and the most

popular spirit in its native Brazil - where

it's actually regarded as an unexciting staple. It's made with the fermented juice of sugar cane, and can be aged for a more complex flavour.

Maybe part of the reason it's failed to catch fire in the off-trade is that hardly anybody knows how to pronounce it.

For those of us still in any doubt, it's


Cigar duty stamp 'police' are just a smokescreen

Q I've heard that police officers are patrolling shops and seizing cigars that don't carry a duty stamp. I had no idea that cigars had to carry these stamps. Am I breaking the law?

A No. There is a scam going on at the moment in London and Reading in which bogus officers try to make off with perfectly legitimate tobacco. There is no requirement for cigar packs or pipe tobacco to carry duty stamps, so if you're visited by these conmen, don't hand over merchandise of any kind. Perhaps you could guide them towards a CCTV camera before calling the real police.