How solicitors can help plan for a safe reopening.
- Solicitors can advise on employer obligations for returning to work.
- Businesses are urged to review their GDPR policies to account for Covid-19.
- Solicitors can help businesses re-start and plan ahead for success.
As the country begins to reopen following Covid-19’s restrictions, businesses are urged to plan adequately for a safe and sustainable reopening. The Law Society of Ireland is highlighting five key steps businesses can take in the weeks ahead.
President of the Law Society of Ireland Michele O’Boyle said, “There are a number of key issues businesses should consider before welcoming employees and customers back onto their premises. As with all aspects of business planning, your local solicitor is a source of guidance and can help solve problems as we all navigate the next steps in the roadmap.”
1. Safe return to work
“Employers have a statutory duty of care to their employees to provide a safe place of work. When preparing to reopen, every business should develop a Covid-19 response plan, review their health and safety protocols, complete a risk assessment and amend existing policies where needed to ensure they meet this statutory requirement,” said Ms O’Boyle.
“Employees that can return to work should be consulted on health and safety procedures and provided with extra training and information. Extra consideration should be given to accommodating vulnerable people, including older employees and members of staff who are pregnant.”
2. Welcoming customers
“Business owners also owe a duty of care to the people using their premises. A review of internal policies, including social distancing measures, will be necessary. This should be done in consideration of government guidelines.”
“Your solicitor can advise on your obligations as an employer and your duty of care to customers to ensure a safe and productive return to business for everyone,” explained Ms O’Boyle.
3. Contact tracing & GDPR
“Reopening businesses may require new customer processes, such as taking details for contract tracing purposes,” said Ms O’Boyle. “If contact tracing measures are put in place, it is important businesses do not fall short of their GDPR responsibilities.”
“Contact tracing may involve collecting personal information, including names, postal addresses, and contact phone numbers. This type of information must be held securely,” she explained. “Businesses not compliant with rules introduced in 2018 may face severe penalties, including fines of up to 4 per cent turnover.”
“Employers should also be cautious of other potential GDPR breaches; for example, disclosing details of an employee’s health record, such as having an underlying health condition and being vulnerable to Covid-19.”
“If you need information on reviewing your GDPR policy, or updating it to account for Covid-19 precautions, the Law Society advises talking to your solicitor at the earliest opportunity.”
4. Reopening grants
“Unfortunately, many businesses will have been financially impacted by Covid-19. While the government and financial institutions are providing a number or restart grants, tax breaks and loan breaks, it can be overwhelming to process this complex information,” said Ms O’Boyle.
“Solicitors can advise businesses on business loan applications, grants and the best steps to take to ensure long-term financial stability and success.”
5. Wage subsidy schemes
“As the country adjusts to its new normal, employees who have been benefitting from the wage subsidy scheme may no longer qualify as the roadmap progresses. It is important employers take action to adjust their payroll as necessary as business resumes.”
Solicitors open for business
“Solicitors provide essential services and remain open to give up-to-date guidance on business queries during Covid-19, including employment issues, wage subsidies or restarting your business,” said Ms O’Boyle.
“Your local solicitor is open for business and can help navigate the roadmap for recovery and plan ahead for success.”
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