While the Department of Health advises Ireland is well positioned to detect and respond to cases of COVID-19, the advised protocol is likely to have a major impact on the workplace.

The evolving situation is a timely reminder for business owners and employers to activate continuity measures to minimise risk, protect their workforce and ensure as little disruption to operations as possible.

Crisis management starts with preparedness. Here are some key tips to consider when preparing your Business in response to COVID-19.

Understand

1. Form a task team to monitor information produced by WHO, the HSE and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). It is also worth closely monitoring the Government website for regular updates.

By assigning responsibility to a select team, you can help reduce the risk of misinformation spreading and also give employees a source within the business from whom to seek direction in uncertain times.

Review

2. Review and update processes around sick leave and remote working.

The government has already indicated it will be introducing emergency legislation to amend the rules on sick pay in the wake of Coronavirus concerns. It is vital to ensure staff are educated on sick pay policy, and for employers to work with staff to agree for the time to be taken as holiday, if appropriate.

3. While many companies have existing ‘work from home’ policies in place, others may not have the adequate infrastructure or systems in place to accommodate remote working, depending on the sector.

In order to mitigate disruption to your business operations, it is important to review your processes and put in place a robust and effective action plan that is tailored to deliver.

4. Start considering supply chains, such as whether you need to find new suppliers or take different steps to ensure supply and demand.

5. Start cash-flow forecasting to make sure you can sustain your business should revenue reduce, this might require seeking advice from Business advisors on how best to prepare financially.

Collector-General, Mr. Joe Howley yesterday outlined that Revenue will engage with any viable business that experiences temporary cashflow difficulties, including difficulties arising from exceptional circumstances such as the COVID-19 outbreak. Full statement available here.

6. Review what documentation, records and information you have access to digitally. Many businesses still rely on physical filing systems. Now is a good time to review and transfer if possible, as physical storage may not be accessible, should the concerns deepen and office space becomes off limits. There are numerous cloud-storage providers and data specialists who can be consulted on this front.

7. Consult your insurance providers for information and advice on your policy to guarantee you are prepared for any eventuality with regards coverage. The types of coverage that may be available includes business interruption, employee compensation and public liability.

Inform

8. Once you understand the situation, monitor it closely as it develops, and introduce policy changes to aid operations where required, it is important to engage with your customers and clients to inform them of the actions you are taking as a business.

Clients will seek reassurance that you are prepared and ready to deliver where possible, so an open line of communication is absolutely crucial.

9. Carry out a complete audit on your website, social media channels and communications and update where possible to show your business is taking action to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

It is important to remember, the risk of catching coronavirus in Ireland is still low. At this point the focus has to go on prevention and mitigation, and there is a lot that government, employers and the public can do to minimise risk.

For more information on COVID-19, including detail on how to detect and protect against transmission of the virus, see:

HSE advisory on COVID-19