Coronavirus is having a major impact in many different areas across the world. The Financial Conduct Authority has issued a statement in which it says:

“We expect all firms to have contingency plans in place to deal with major events.”

All firms should have a business continuity plan, and this should set out the steps the firm will take to ensure it can continue to service its customers, even if this has to be done with a reduced number of staff and/or from different locations. The FCA is clearly saying that a widespread outbreak of a virus is one of the scenarios in which the continuity plan needs to be put into practice.

The Government has urged firms to explore ways in which some, or all, of their staff, could work from home should the outbreak spread further within the UK. Some experts suggest the peak of the outbreak in the UK may occur in late April or in May; others have cautioned that firms may have to deal with a situation where one-fifth of their workforce are off work with sickness at any one time.

As the peak of the outbreak could be just a matter of weeks away, firms in all sectors need to start thinking about ways in which essential customer servicing can continue and how home working can be facilitated.

In today’s technology-focussed age, many employees will be able to work from home, with the aid of email, telephone contact, teleconferencing, web chat etc. However, it will probably take several days, if not weeks, to put in place arrangements such as ensuring staff can log in to the relevant systems and can access the necessary documents from a remote location.

Some of the key issues firms may need to address include:

  • Urging staff to stay at home should they think that they may have symptoms of the virus
  • Relaxing requirements that might currently require staff to provide doctor’s notes and similar for periods of illness
  • Understanding that staff who are symptom-free may still need to be away from work as their children might have caught the virus, or their school has been closed
  • Purchasing hand sanitiser
  • Ensuring all toilets have a well-stocked soap dispenser and a number of anti-septic wipes
  • Encouraging staff to wash their hands regularly, in line with the Government’s advice
  • Asking staff to sneeze into disposable tissues, and then to bin the tissue and wash their hands immediately
  • Regularly cleaning computer keyboards, desks and surfaces
  • Changing any ‘hot desking’ practices or similar, as the virus can remain on surfaces for as long as a few days
  • Allowing employees to change their working hours so they can travel outside of peak hours

The Government has said that statutory sick pay can now be paid from the first day of absence if the employee in question has coronavirus concerns.

It has also said that it does not recommend closing the office were any employees to test positive for the virus. Instead, the firm will receive advice from the local Public Health England Health Protection Team.

Another impact of the outbreak is the recent sharp falls in share prices across the globe, and many ordinary people have seen the value of their investments plummet. Hopefully the UK’s financial advisers will have assessed their clients’ attitudes to risk and capacities for loss before recommending any risky equity-based investments. However, advisers could still have an important role in re-assuring their customers that short-term volatility in share prices is common.

The information shown in this article was correct at the time of publication. Articles are not routinely reviewed and as such are not updated. Please be aware the facts, circumstances or legal position may change after publication of the article