992Against the theme of meltdown in the High Street, the development of 99p Stores Ltd provides a spectacular counterpoint. The no-frills retailer is growing at the rate of two stores per week, and (at the time of writing) has over 2,000 employees in 85 stores located across England and Wales. In such a fast-growing environment the demands are high, and 99p Stores’ MD Nigel Peckham can’t afford to take his eye off the ball for a minute. With that in mind, he decided to delegate the tasks of Employment and Health & Safety compliance to mhl support, one of UK’s leading regulatory service companies.

Keeping Pace With Legislation
‘It’s very difficult, not to mention time consuming, to keep up with changes in legislation on your own’, said Nigel, speaking in the company’s Daventry Head office. ‘With mhl we have a full-time resource and reference point that provides us with quality, indemnified advice when we need it. The cost of the service is very reasonable and because payment is spread over the lifetime of the contract we can budget our out-costs accurately, virtually eliminating the risk of potentially expensive tribunals.’

In the past year, mhl has advised 99p Stores Ltd. in a number of ways, as Nigel explained: ‘All of our HR documentation, including our standard contract of employment, was revised to make sure we were compliant and mhl has helped us with a number of HR disputes. However, I particularly appreciate the ‘expert ear’ they provide when I’m considering something new.’

A Level of Confidence
Upon appointment, 99p Stores set up a number of mhl support visits, both in store and at warehouses locations, so that current practices could be reviewed and remedial action, to adjust policies and procedures, could be suggested. ‘That has given us a level of confidence’, Nigel said. ‘Knowing that an outside resource had examined what we’re doing was helpful. Mhl discovered that we weren’t dramatically in the wrong; but it’s the nuances, the slightly different ways of doing things that have given us the feel-good factor of knowing we’re complying with the law. Maintaining current legislative compliance is not easy, but with mhl in place we can do just that.’

In retail, the compliance burden is a heavy one, as Nigel explains. ‘There are so many legislative updates’, he said, ‘be they from trading standards, environmental health or even general legislation that covers, for example, age restrictions. Knife crime is a good example. Where we sell any item with a blade above a certain length, which can be sold only to persons above a certain age – we’ve chosen to link that product to a database. Now, when such a product is sold, the till asks the seller to confirm that the purchase is legal.

Transparent Audit Trail
‘Unfortunately, in this day and age it is increasingly common, after a crime has been committed, for police to come into one of our stores with, for example, a knife, and ask ‘was this bought here?’, and we can be confident, when that happens, that we have a transparent audit trail and we can demonstrate that we are aware of the law and have applied it.’

99p Stores is served by a dedicated team at mhl that has been able, during the course of the first year of the contract, to get to know both the people running the company and the ethos of the business.
Support Line Advisor Brendan Wincott, to whom Nigel refers as his ‘key contact’, feels very much a part of the 99p Stores team. ‘It’s a process of continuous development’, he said. ‘All mhl Support Line Advisors make it their business to learn as much as they can about a client’s business and to understand its key principals. That way, we can offer advice that not only ensures legal compliance, but also helps keep the company on-target to achieve its commercial goals.’

Up To Scratch
‘The beauty of having mhl support on our side is that we can be confident that both our procedures and our paperwork are up to scratch, allowing us to deal with 70-80% of HR and H&S issues internally,’ Nigel said. Asked for a single sentence that might encourage others to enlist mhl’s support, Nigel offered: ‘it’s just as easy to get advice from mhl as it would be if there was an HR Director in the next office.’

mhl support ltd
Tel: 08453?100600

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