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Business adjustments and compliance during COVID-19

Posted on 17th August, 2020

The COVID-19 global pandemic is undoubtably a defining event of 2020 and its effects are likely to continue throughout the decade. As the situations continues to change, from the amount of people being deemed safe to gather in a single place to ordering certain businesses to open or close their doors, there are two distinct changes to businesses providing goods or services as a result of lockdown. Firstly, businesses are expanding their e-commerce platform and secondly, a rise in remote working meaning a change in delivering services.

It’s no secret that the high street has struggled in recent years and a result of nonessential shops closing is that businesses have had to utilise and expand their online platform to keep trading. We have seen company sales fall to zero due to their lack of e-commerce, such as Primark, and as a result many businesses have been pressured to exploit the gap in the high street sooner rather than later. For example, Aldi are trailing a new home delivery service for the first time since the supermarket arrived in the UK. This highlights that companies are recognising they need to adapt, adjust and be flexible to new client demands and needs, including online commercial transactions.

It is important for businesses who are moving their services online, or increasing the same, that they have the correct and compliant e-commerce legal documentation in place. For those businesses that did not supply services online pre-lockdown, their website terms and conditions will be required to be updated to reflect their current working methods. Furthermore, a business may have changed how it processes personal data (in that it may never have done this before), and its privacy policy and cookie policy will need updating or the same be implemented if not previously adopted.

Aside from moving the supply of goods and services online, many businesses have had to alter the service location. A huge amount of businesses have been forced to adapt to home working, dealing with clients virtually via Zoom or Microsoft Teams and providing their services remotely. For example, from us here at Jacksons having to meet clients virtually and changing our procedures to facilitate lockdown, such as virtual identity checks, to Doctors having to provide remote analysis and diagnostic services to the NHS, businesses in most sectors have been affected by Covid and have had to adapt in some way.

No matter which sector your business is in, working remotely means you now have personal data outside the office-controlled environment, and this can result in complexities in complying with data protection laws. The Information Commissioner’s Office has published ten helpful tips to ensure you are mindful of data protection compliance during the covid-19 pandemic and beyond. These are:

  1. Follow your organisation’s policies, procedure and guidance.
  2. Only use approved technology or handling personal data.
  3. Consider confidentiality when holding conversation or using a screen.
  4. Take care with print outs.
  5. Don’t mix your organisation’s data with your own personal data.
  6. Lock it away where possible.
  7. Be extra vigilant about opening web links and attachments in emails or other messages.
  8. Use strong passwords.
  9. Communicate securely.
  10. Keep software up to date.

It is important to be mindful and not allow a new, more relaxed working environment to relax compliance with data protection.

Whilst the situation is ever changing in this period of uncertainty, is important for businesses to remember that any adjustments they do make is compliant and any legal documentation in place covers their new way of working to avoid any lengthy and costly legal dispute further down the line.

 

Rebecca Logue, Solicitor, Corporate and Commercial

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