Rather than policing the government have made clear that the primary focus of the regulator will be to assist businesses in complying with legislation. As such local authorities are expected to reduce the number of proactive inspections taking place and divert resources towards high risk premises and towards initiatives aimed at achieving outcomes.
As a result inspectors may be able to spend more time educating and engaging high risk or non-compliant businesses to change.
The government have also indicated that their intention to encourage co-regulation. Co-regulation will usually involve industry complying with a set of rules that have been agreed between the regulator and industry. The business might then be left to audit and manage risks themselves without proactive intervention or inspections. The model is best suited to larger companies with multiple premises – those who are aware of what they need to do to achieve compliance and are committed to making it happen.
The primary authority scheme operated by the Better Regulation Delivery Office (formerly LBRO) is at the forefront of government plans to transform enforcement and will go part of the way towards delivering co-regulation.
Primary authority schemes are put in place where a local authority forms a partnership with a business who operates in a number of local authority areas. The idea is that businesses benefit from a single point of contact rather than having to deal with multiple authorities. As such, enforcing authorities must liaise with the primary authority before taking enforcement action who may block the action if it is not consistent with planned arrangements.
The scheme is to be advanced further by the incorporation of an element of earned recognition. Through earned recognition regulators will be expected to take more account of the time and effort spent by businesses on compliance through a reduction in intervention and agreed inspection plans.
Over 250 local authority environmental health departments are now implementing the new food hygiene ratings scheme in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (Scottish authorities are committed to a slightly different scheme called the Food Hygiene Information Scheme).
Apart from the potential for customers using the scheme to choose where to eat, it has been reported that ratings are also influencing decisions made on tenders and prospective business investment. Businesses are also starting to use the ratings to identify reputable suppliers with the potential for the termination of long-term contracts. The scheme has therefore started to have a growing significance and potential for impact on the industry.
Whatever your view on the scheme getting a good score is important for businesses and operators are advised to find out more about the scheme and brief managers on its significance. ENcentre can provide operators with the information they need to score highly and detail what action operators can take if they are awarded a poor rating.