The Government's announcement of mandatory scanning or manually signing in to many small businesses at all alert levels is going to deliver an additional burden for small business owners.
While this is a necessity in current times, putting the onus on the business owner to get their customers to comply is extra red tape that will place huge and unreasonable demands on the already struggling small business sector.
The fact that the business owner could potentially face a fine of up to $1000 because they're too busy running their cafe, restaurant, night club or other relevant business to police tardy customers, is a step too far.
So what happens if they have a customer who refuses to sign in? Does the business owner call the police? Refuse entry to that person and possibly escalate the situation?
If the QR code is displayed and the paper register is prominently positioned, it should be the responsibility of the customer to ensure they go through the correct process.
Yes, many New Zealanders have been too lax over the past year. With no Covid cases reported in the community, it dropped off the "top of mind" positioning. Unfortunately we can't retrospectively correct that.
But now that the Delta variant is here and making itself known, people will be getting out their phones and scanning or being prepared to complete a paper register. We all understand the necessity for this in light of the more virulent strain of Covid and the huge amount of time and resources it will save in tracking down contacts.
However, even more confusing is that some businesses are excluded from the new regime. So if you're a supermarket owner, there are no requirements to police customers. If you're a retailer, there are no requirements. But if you own a cafe or restaurant you are responsible for other people's actions. Yet again, the hospitality industry gets the short end of the stick.
It's a big challenge for cafe and restaurant owners who often have younger, less experienced employees. Having to ask them to challenge customers, many of whom may be regulars, is a lot of responsibility and unnecessary discomfort to put on young shoulders.
So supermarkets and dairies will be excluded on the grounds of practicality, yet supermarkets often have hundreds of people shopping together at one time with the chance of exposure surely higher than a few people popping into a cafe.
There needs to be one rule for all. Make it clear, keep it simple and make it do-able.
Providing a paper register is asking people who do not own a smartphone to write down their personal details for all to see. There are significant privacy issues around this. Anyone could snap a photo of the register and obtain someone's name, phone number and, in some cases, address. I would be very reluctant to divulge that information to the person behind me in the queue, and all the others that follow.
Why not have individual forms completed and popped into a box to keep the information secure and away from prying eyes?
We know that many small business owners are already at breaking point as a result of trying to stay afloat over the last 18 months. A recent survey by Business Mentors New Zealand reported on the emotional toll taken on the mental health of business owners with many saying that another lockdown would seriously affect their ability to cope, not just financially, but emotionally.
To date, the Government has done a good job of supporting small businesses but they need to keep the stressed business owner in mind as we move forward.
Implementing punitive consequences for small business owners goes against the grain of supporting the very people who are the backbone of this economy.
• Sarah Trotman, ONZM, is a business and personal mentor.