It is an exciting time to stop working for a boss and start running your own business. Your themed cafe is about ready to open its doors after you finish hiring staff. However, while you already have insurance in place to cover damage to property and loss of earnings, have you protected yourself against a customer who does not like the word no? There are legitimate reasons why you are allowed to refuse to serve customers, and there are circumstances when you cannot. Know the difference between the two and understand why you need professional indemnity insurance before your business begins its operations.
When you can refuse service
As a business owner, you have the right to refuse service to customers if they are not behaving in a manner complimentary to your business. For example, if you state on the front door of your shop that customers must be wearing a shirt and shoes before entry (for hygiene reasons around food), and a customer comes in without those two items, you can ask them to leave. You can also refuse to serve customers who are being loudly disruptive to your other patrons, to those who are trying to destroy your property, and to anyone trying to cause trouble.
In these instances, don't get into an argument, just ask the customer to leave. If they refuse, call the police and ask for help.
When you can't refuse service
Everybody has their own opinions about what they do and don't like about other types of people, but these personal preferences cannot legally enter your workplace. You cannot refuse to service a person based on their gender, age, race, disability or sexual preferences. You cannot refuse to hire staff based on these items either. If you do, you face the wrath of the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Why you need professional indemnity insurance
There are plenty of stories on social media about the customer who objected to a business owner saying no to them. Even though saying no to a person is not against the law (provided you have not done so using discrimination outlined above), customers may choose to sue you, alleging misconduct.
Professional indemnity insurance covers you while you fight allegations of misconduct, and the insurance covers your legal costs as well as reimbursing you for time lost while tied up in court action. As a new business owner, you don't want to lose money fighting these allegations. Therefore, contact a business insurance broker who can show you the right professional indemnity policy to suit the industry you are in. Then, you can say no as much as you want.