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Business Continuity in the Time of Coronavirus

Mar 12 2020 | by OrionW

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus (officially COVID-19) has been officially classified as a pandemic.  In Singapore, the Ministry of Health (MOH) raised the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) alert level to Orange in early February, one step below the highest alert level.  Singapore last raised the alert level to Orange in 2009 during the H1N1 influenza outbreak.

Under DORSCON Orange, the coronavirus is viewed as severe and easily transmitted from person to person but has not spread widely in Singapore and is considered to be contained.  The government has implemented precautionary measures to minimise the risk of further transmission and to raise the protection of vulnerable groups. 

As a general matter, a company’s board of directors and senior management are ultimately responsible for the business continuity of their business.  If your board has not met recently, it would be appropriate to consider holding a board meeting to discuss the company’s current condition, matters that require immediate response, and the near-term and long-term plans in respect of the virus.

If your company has a business continuity plan (BCP), it is time to review it carefully and update it as needed.  If your company does not have a BCP, it is not too late to take meaningful steps that can minimise damage to your company’s business.

Business Continuity Tips

  • Address the health and safety of staff and customers and the continuation of critical business functions.
  • Prepare briefings for senior management on the nature of the disease, its modes of transmission, its symptoms, personal and workplace hygiene, and public health considerations, and update the briefings as more and better information becomes available.
  • Develop a leadership continuity plan if senior managers or key decision makers are absent.
  • Ensure all senior leaders are aware of and implement the latest advisories and orders from regulators and other government organisations.
  • Appoint a senior manager to coordinate communications and incident response within the company.
  • Develop an external crisis communication plan to assure shareholders, customers, suppliers, regulators, media and other stakeholders if the business is significantly disrupted.
  • Keep a record of documents that support your company’s decisions, particularly those which prove that your company took due care to comply with its obligations despite the outbreak.    
  • Communicate regularly with staff about the company’s BCP and their role in implementing it.
  • Educate and raise the awareness of staff on coronavirus developments, health information and hygiene best practices.
  • Consider work from home arrangements for staff where feasible and review policies and procedures to ensure they have adequate support.
  • Consider cross-training staff to ensure that essential business functions will not be neglected because of staff absences.
  • Consider dividing staff into alternate pools to work from home and/or offsite facilities as sometimes a single infected staff member can result in a quarantine order for an entire facility.
  • Reduce or eliminate non-essential travel.
  • Establish employee and visitor screening and contact tracing procedures.  (For guidance on data protection considerations related to screening and contact tracing, please see our article Collecting Personal Data for COVID-19 Contact Tracing.)
  • Establish procedures for staff quarantine.
  • Where feasible, implement redundant and backup systems and capabilities.
  • Establish a framework to assure that critical suppliers have implemented appropriate business continuity measures of their own to deal with the coronavirus.
  • Ensure that work areas are regularly disinfected and procure adequate quantities of cleaning supplies, soap, hand sanitiser, masks and other equipment and supplies.

The action points above are general and are not exhaustive.  Every company must develop a BCP and responses to the coronavirus generally that are commensurate with the nature, size and complexity of its business.  Other regulatory guidelines may also apply depending on your company’s industry or sector.

For More Information

For more information, or if you have questions about this article, please contact us at info@orionw.com.

Disclaimer: This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal advice.