“Stick ‘em up!” Who’s responsible for staff security in a franchise?

Staff can unfortunately end up on the receiving end of dangerous situations such as attacks by disgruntled customers or armed robberies.

The question is – is the franchisor or franchisee responsible for the safety of staff in these situations?

Case study – Armed hold-up at Campbelltown 7-Eleven in Sydney

A Campbelltown-based convenience store owner was recently in the media following a rejection by his franchisor to close his business at night after two violent robberies.

Paresh Davaria made the plea to 7-Eleven after the robberies earlier this year where staff were threatened with a knife and sawn-off shotgun in the two incidents. Police assessed the store as high risk for further robberies and recommended it be closed between 11pm – 4am.

7-Eleven decided against closing the store at night and responded by rolling out safety measures including additional cameras, fit-out of a special security door to the store’s office and removal of marketing materials that blocked windows.

The franchisor said franchisees are aware that the business is open 24-7 before they sign up and that it will continue to invest in safety measures as required. Mr Davaria remains unsatisfied with the franchisor’s decision and continues to push for closure at night.

So, who is responsible for safety?

7-Eleven and Mr Davaria have both taken steps to protect staff from harm – 7-Eleven has introduced additional security measures while Mr Davaria has taken over night shifts in his store.

In short, both the franchisor and franchisee are responsible for the safety and wellbeing of employees.

Areas the franchisor is responsible for:

  • Policies and procedure
    Have documented policies and procedures that guide staff as to how to act to prevent safety issues from arising and to mitigate situations when they occur. This may include telling staff not to resist in the case of a robbery and who to contact in case of an emergency. Make sure that these are regularly circulated to franchisees for distribution to staff.
  • Audits
    Franchisors can and should undertake regular audits of working conditions including security measures and assessment of potential risks so that solutions can be put in place before a problem occurs.
  • Trading hours
    Franchisees need to operate under trading hours dictated by the franchisor’s business model. As discussed above, 7-Eleven operates 24-7 and does what it can to protect staff within these hours. Depending on the business and circumstances, you may decide to limit hours for certain stores to reduce risk.
  • Health and safety legislation
    Make sure your business model fully complies and is up-to-date with legislative changes.

Areas the franchisee is responsible for:

  • Policies and procedures
    Franchisees may not have the ability to dictate what is set out in policies and procedures, but they do have a responsibility to adhere to them and to make sure staff know about them and follow them.
  • Raising issues
    If you spot a potential risk to staff safety, tell your franchisor so you can discuss the best way to minimise the risk.
  • Monitoring security measures
    Have regular checks in place for locks, lighting, cameras, etc. If anything is faulty fix it if it is within your power or contact your franchising head office urgently.
  • Health and safety legislation
    Familiarise yourself with current legislation. Health and safety legislation should be front of mind. You should be aware of your obligations and seek advice if there are any contradictions from what you understand your obligations are and what the franchisor is requiring you do.

Key lesson

Security of staff must be a priority for both franchisors and franchisees. Both the franchisor and franchisee should ensure that steps have been put in place that minimise the risk to staff and protect the overall brand.

If you’d like more information or to discuss what safety measures you are responsible for, please contact Racha Abboud.