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The New Normal Work Place – Legal Issues

by | May 15, 2020 | Business, Contracts, Featured, Law

The COVID-19 has changed the way we do business https://www.forbes.com/sites/jackkelly/2020/03/06/working-from-home-video-job-interviews-and-no-in-person-meetings-will-be-the-new-post-covid-19-standard/#2e17e1456348 It was only a matter to time for the business to change – it took a pandemic to do it. With change, comes risk and challenges. In our enthusiasm to change the way we do things, do ensure that your risks are managed. You don’t want to be facing legal problems on top of COVID-19 and the current economic situation.

Here are some the legal issues that you may have to address in the new normal of doing business.

1. Employment Contracts

Throw out your “standard template” employment contracts. Whether your employees are working from home, rotation basis, flexible hours, and whatever new working arrangement – all these needs to be reflected in your new employment contracts.

How do you measure employees productivity? What is their KPI’s? How will they be assessed at the year end review? Does working hours still apply when working from home? What about performance reward of employees?

These are some of the new changes that needs to be included in your new employment contracts. Imposing new working terms and conditions to employees without putting them down clearly in writing would open businesses to unnecessary disputes and problems with their employees.

2. Confidential Documents & Information

With employees and bosses working from home, there will be instances where confidential documents and information will need to be taken home or accessed from home. The risks when confidential documents and information leave the office is – loss during transit (computer, documents loss or stolen in between office and home); loss or damage at home etc. It is paramount that some SOP or guidelines are created by business owners. On top of that, a more secure and detailed Confidentiality Agreement should be signed by employees to further protect the business.

3. System and Applications

Working from home and remote working will need employees and businesses to use systems and applications to integrate work from all the employees. If you are using any cloud service, your business falls under this concern. The more common ones include Dropbox and Google Drive for document storage; Trello for Project Management; Flock for Team Work Integration; or other custom systems that your business may use.

Concerns in this area include data security, performance, price, failure of system which results in financial loss to the company etc. Do ensure all these and more are discussed and agreed before using them for your business.

4. Employee Safety

Until and unless a vaccine is discovered, there is always a risks of infection. This includes employees risks – whether it is on their way to work; at the place of work; during the course of carrying out their duties as an employee. Your business must ensure the reasonable safety precautions are taken. Businesses risks being sued and fined for failing to ensure the safety of their employees. Kindly follow the guidelines of your country. For Malaysian Companies, you may refer to the Ministry of Health https://www.moh.gov.my/index.php/pages/view/2019-ncov-wuhan-guidelines

5. Personal Data

Currently there is a mandatory sign-in when you enter a premise, where you leave your name, contact number and other personal information. In Selangor, Malaysia, the state government has introduced an app https://www.selangkah.my/main/carian This is to allow contact tracing. However, a major concern is the personal data that is being shared and given (unwillingly?). At the time of writing, there is no serious discussions on the protection of such personal data, what you can and cannot do with the data that you have collected.

Until a guideline is issued, businesses should ensure that the personal data is not shared, or used for any purpose, including for purposes of marketing. Do not sell those data. The personal data should only be kept for contact tracing purposes and nothing else. It should be kept in a secure location where other visitors, employees to do not have access to it.

6. Independent Workforce

Some businesses have started using independent workforce or freelancers. As we move towards working away from the office, it would make sense that some areas of your business do not need a permanent employee. Work can be given to freelancers. Should your business pivot towards this way of doing business, do ensure that your Services Agreement is properly drafted and such risks like quality of work; KPI’s; reporting mechanism; payment; confidential information etc are addressed.

Whether you like or not, the way business is done will never be same again. It is best you change the way you do business the right way from the very beginning.

Nik Erman Nik Roseli Partner Commercial & Sports Lawyer

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