Business continuity - What can we learn? Part 1

Monday 27th April 2020

If a business has a “Business Continuity Plan” or a BCP it usually involves provisions for circumstances such as a fire or flood, or over more recent years, terrorism, possibly even adverse weather. Very few are likely to include pandemic or epidemic as they thankfully are so rare and certainly in most of our lifetimes as dramatic and serious as this one. The last one in the author’s memory is the Bird Flu H1N1 epidemic, but the impact from that was nowhere near as significant as with Covid-19.

If you do not have a business continuity plan or it has been sitting on a shelf gathering dust for many years now is a time to review and update it with lessons we have all learned during this difficult time.

A good BCP should look at the various risks and then set out a plan to mitigate those risks. It is not written stone and should be flexible as there will always be things outside of your control (such as this lock down for instance), but it gives you a good starting point and hopefully means that you have the resources and can quickly source the resources you need because you already have in place an idea of what is needed.

The main risks, no matter the business interruption, will be:

● employees

● supply chain

● customers

● regulatory

● financial

Part 1 – Employees

With employees you have a duty to protect their health and safety – this generally means ensuring the workplace itself if safe and may mean they are not working in a “building site” that would normally be an office or a factory, or not traveling to work when to do so would be dangerous. Certainly this present situation has highlighted the need and ability to be able to work from home. Is this something that can be factored into your BCP? The biggest factor is access to technology – dragging a desk top computer home might not be ideal but are there other IT solutions to look at when upgrading or next investing in your IT infrastructure? Cleaning in the workplace is also a factor that may need to be considered and also where staff gather.

Staff becoming sick can also be an issue. As we have seen with the figures and the nature of this pandemic, it is not just those who are sick who can be affected but those who live with them as well. How can work be covered? How can colleagues be protected?

Mental health should also be a consideration – as stressful situations arise – workloads increase, valued colleagues face sickness/death, deadlines loom, finances tighten, the lockdown – there is often a sense of just hunker down and get on with it at first, but as time goes on (we are now on day 35 of lockdown) things can become weary and the hunker down can start to become like walking through treacle. Communication, encouragement and honesty are key so that employees are not left worrying about what the future may hold.

You also need to consider whether your contracts of employment include provisions that allow you to be flexible in such circumstances (within the scope of reasonableness) to allow unilateral implementation of your BCP.

As well as updating your BCP you may need to consider reviewing your contracts and policies and procedures – do you have a home working policy, IT policy, use of own devices policy?

For further assistance please contact a member of our Employment Law Team on 01384 811 811