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Article:

Coronavirus (COVID-19) response

17 March 2020

As of 16 March, 2020, the UK Government has put in place strict conditions to reduce the spread of COVID-19.  All organisations need to consider how they help and support their employees and partners to work within the parameters laid down by the Government while continuing their operations.

The rapid outbreak of the virus presents a significant business challenge. Given the many unknowns surrounding the outbreak, businesses are having to review their readiness and the potential impact the outbreak may have on their operations, supply chains and employee well-being. 

The UK government has advised that all organisations adopt effective and flexible business continuity management (BCM) arrangements. This will help ensure that the impact of the pandemic and any associated disruptions are minimised. Regardless of whether your business has a robust BCM plan, a partial plan or no plan at all there are immediate steps which you need to take.

Our experts in business resilience and continuity have compiled a list of some of the key areas that your organisation should consider now that a pandemic has been declared.

1. Establish a pandemic response team

Organisations should identify and gather a team of leaders and internal stakeholders to form a ‘response team’ with representation from all business areas. The role of the response team will be to develop, and regularly monitor and update, a plan tailored to your business. The first priority for the team is to identify the critical processes that need to operate and assess whether you can conduct critical processes and access your systems if away from the office.

2. Establish a pandemic communications program

Communications with both staff, customers and suppliers is vital asstaff can quickly feel isolated and directionless during a pandemic. Organisations should establish a pandemic communications programme with pre-approved messages and scripts for various stakeholders, including employees, customers, supply chain partners, insurance companies, and where appropriate regulators.

3. Office Hygiene

Companies should provide sufficient and accessible hand washing facilities or hand-hygiene products to reduce the spread of infection.You should also consider more frequent cleaning on premises, and specific cleaning of shared facilities such as lifts, toilets and keyboards.

4. Review HR Policies

Establish policies for sick-leave absences specific to the pandemic, including policies on when a previously ill person is no longer infectious and return to work protocol after illness. These policies must  be guided by the latest Government advice.

5. Information Technology and Security

Ensure remote working technology is able to cope with the potential large increase in the number of users.  Make use of alternative communication channels such as video conference and virtual meeting software. It is important that normal Information Security protocols are followed to prevent data leakage. Staff should be reminded not to use personal emails for company communications and to keep data secure by avoiding laptop hard drives or removable media. Appropriate communication channels should be used to inform staff of any IT problems or downtime which may impact on remote working.

6. Discuss insurances

Have discussions with your insurers about possible business impacts of the pandemic. Be absolutely sure you understand what you are and aren’t covered for.

7. Be aware of fraud

During a crisis, it is easy for people to forget best practice. They may no longer take normal precautions and fall for email phishing or other types of fraud. This is a good time to remind and educate staff on internet scams. In addition, the physical security of offices should be properly maintained while staff are working remotely.

If you’d like more information about your approach to your response to this fast changing situation, please contact Mathew Ring, Director, BDO LLP.

You can visit our dedicated webpage for more information on how we are approaching the situation.

View our COVID-19 hub