Business Law

What Businesses Need to Consider in Light of COVID-19

The current pandemic has drastically changed the face of how we do business in Canada in just the past week alone. Offices have closed, people have begun to work remotely and layoffs have already begun. On the other hand, some industries can barely keep up with demand with respect to products and services that have become essential. With everything happening at such a rapid pace, many businesses are operating from a reactive, rather than a proactive, place. In light of such dramatic change so quickly, it can be difficult for business owners to focus on what needs to be done in the short term. Below, we will outline some key considerations that all businesses should be looking at as we wait to see how long the current disruptions will last.

Protect Staff and Clients to the Best of Your Ability

A business is nothing without a strong backbone of capable employees. Nothing is more urgently important than securing the health and safety of everyone who works for you, yourself, and anyone you interact with on a regular basis. This means sending employees to work from home if possible. If some employees need to work onsite, do what you can to ensure they are as safe as possible. Put employees on a rotating schedule, or spread people out physically to ensure less personal contact in the workplace, and provide necessities such as hand sanitizer. If employees are sick or have potentially been exposed to the virus, ensure they stay at home.

Meet with clients and other business contacts via teleconference or video conference instead of meeting in person. Host all work meetings over the phone. Protecting the health of yourself and your staff is the best way to ensure your business will be able to remain operational throughout this disruption.

Review or Prepare a Business Continuity Plan

A business continuity plan (BCP) is a documented plan that accounts for a number of disruptive events, from the death of the business owner to a natural disaster, and outlines how the business can remain operational during such an event. If your business already has a BCP in place, now is the time to review it. We are facing previously unseen challenges with global travel restrictions in place, lockdowns affecting large areas of North America and the temporary closure of several large and small businesses across the country. Does your company’s BCP adequately address everything we are currently facing? If not, this is the time to revise it as needed.

If your company does not have a BCP in place, now is the time to create one, using the current challenges as a guideline. There are several aspects of the business that should be covered off in a detailed BCP, including the following:

Line of Succession & Decision-Making

In the event that the company’s president or another high-level executive became ill and was unable to work, who would step in on their behalf? It is important to know this in advance to avoid making reactive and ill-informed decisions when it becomes necessary. A detailed BCP will clearly set out the chain of command and the order in which people will step in to lead when needed. Ensure that people who may need to make financial decisions have signing authority in advance to avoid a scramble when it counts.

Training, Hiring and Reduction of Staff

In some cases, an event like the current pandemic will have drastic and direct consequences for a business. Currently, many industries have come to a complete standstill including large institutions such as the NBA, NHL and MLB. Many restaurants and bars have been forced to close completely for the foreseeable future. Without cash flow coming in, costs like payroll and benefits can become unfeasible quickly. In many of these cases, businesses will need to assess and unfortunately carry out layoffs and/or termination of some staff. A BCP should outline procedures for a reduction of staff, should that become necessary.

In some cases, an unforeseen event could see an uptick in business, necessitating the need to hire rapidly and implement training procedures. The health sector is currently experiencing shortages around the world and is hiring new staff every day. Thanks to anxieties over the pandemic and social distancing procedures, Ontario’s cannabis stores reported an 80% increase in business over the past weekend. Your company’s BCP should also include hiring and recruitment plans, as well as training programs that can be implemented quickly.

These are just some of the things that businesses should be thinking about in light of the current global situation. Protecting staff and ensuring procedures are in place in the event that responsibilities need to be shared or delegated are key concerns in a rapidly changing business landscape. For a better picture of everything business owners should be looking at in response to COVID-19, seek the guidance of an experienced business lawyer.

The skilled business lawyers at GLG LLP in Toronto regularly assist corporate clients with a variety of issues, including the configuration and structure of a venture in a way that is most beneficial to those involved. Further, we advise and represent corporate clients on related matters including commercial real estate ventures and litigation if necessary. If you are a business owner with concerns related to your obligations and responsibilities in light of COVID-19, we can help. Call 416-272-7557 or complete the online form to arrange a consultation with one of our lawyers today.