Is effective, ethical and responsible compliance management possible in times of Covid-19?

Maria Laura Paz – Associate

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic in organizations should draw the attention of compliance officers whose main objective is the prevention of occupational risks and data management, since health and safety are a key component in the contingency programs that the pandemic brings to companies.

Having said that, it is imperative to consider that compliance officers must work together with management and staff to communicate the guidelines to be followed by the entire company and in that way contribute to the protection of company´s reputation, prevent fines or claims. We highlight the following measures to consider:

1. Biosecurity measures for employees, contractors, subcontractors and visitors with high risk.

Compliance officers must ensure that social distance, personal hygiene and safety practices in the workplace and home office are met. Therefore, employees must receive updated information, be trained and monitored in order to comply with safety guidelines. It is also important to document said practices in order to prove that the company and its employees complied with legal requirements and internal policies. Activities that require the use of personal protection equipment, including respiratory protection, should be re-evaluated against coronavirus threats. Company personnel who are over 65 years old, pregnant women, and workers with chronic underlying diseases, immunosuppressed patients and other risk groups, must be identified to ensure that they can work from home. Notification of infection cases and security measures must be agreed with suppliers and other third parties in accordance with the contractual clauses and fully enforced. Having a contact (ie office of compliance) to address coronavirus related problems is effective for constant communication.

2. Identify and communicate in order to avoid any risk of harassment.

Employees react fearfully to people who have flu-like symptoms or who have recently returned from high-risk areas. That is why communication is key so that employees know and comply with biosecurity measures, same ones that seek to avoid the risk of contagion, and know how to react appropriately.

 3. Sick leave management.

Employees with flu-like symptoms such as fever or cough should be asked to stay home. This requirement must also consider family members and other co-inhabitants. Following official, international and national guidelines, compliance officers must temporarily make exceptions to sick leave policies to allow employees to stay home in the event of quarantine, even when medical documentation is not presented.

4. Travel and business meetings Management.

Trips to and from high-risk areas must be limited or exceptionally allowed with high-level approvals. Video conferencing must be a recommended alternative to business meetings, especially large ones. Compliance officers must ensure that changes in travel insurance coverage are communicated, as well as government travel and public health alerts and restrictions.

 5. Helpline.

This is used in order for employees to record their concerns or observations about coronavirus. The helpline will help understand and navigate key risks across the organization.

Compliance officers are in a unique position to mitigate an increased risk within their organizations, especially with regard to the appropriate response to fear, harassment and intimidation. We are at a key moment to adapt compliance standards in order to protect the health of personnel and consequently business activity in general.

We hope that these guidelines and tips are helpful in your organization’s compliance policies. We remain attentive to any concern or request for additional support.