The Association of Compliance Officers Ireland (ACOI) have said that, as the Irish workforce and businesses themselves begin to contemplate what the working landscape will look like as the country tentatively emerges from lockdown, the issue of compliance and how to deal with social distancing and other COVID-related protocol, will be at the forefront of the minds of managers and business owners in every industry. The professional body, which has over 3,000 members nationwide, believe that “COVID Compliance Officers” may well need to become commonplace – if only temporarily – to ensure businesses meet any instructions and/or rules and guidelines issued by the Government, which might then allow them to recommence trading.
Michael Kavanagh, CEO of the ACOI, explained how the situation might unfold,
“While there have been rumblings that we may be edging closer to opening the country up for business again, it is widely accepted that rather than preparing for “life after COVID”, we will have to set ourselves up for “life amidst COVID” – until such time as a treatment is found. This means businesses will have to adapt and change according to what the relevant authorities advise. Organisations will have to adhere to strict rules to ensure we hold our ground in the fight against the spread of the disease. In order to do this, employees and management will need to know exactly what they have to do. Invariably, one person, or even a team of people, depending on the size of the organisation, should be tasked with ensuring compliance in this regard”.
The ACOI are advising the a dedicated COVID Compliance Officer could be an existing compliance officer, or another senior employee or member of management within the company.
Mr. Kavanagh continued,
“By appointing someone to the role of COVID compliance regulator, the HSE and Gardai will have a go-to person to interact with and support in terms of putting the necessary processes and procedures in place.
There appears to be a growing consensus that people will return to work on a phased basis based on national COVID-19 management targets being met, with those working outdoors possibly being the first to return. In each workplace, someone will have to assess how employees and customers can adhere to new rules such as maintaining a two-metre distance from colleagues and other customers, and minimising the level of face-to-face interaction. This will need to happen, preferably, before businesses reopen and employees return to work”.
As Ireland’s leading body for regulatory compliance and business ethics, the ACOI has its finger on the pulse of the issues that are affecting businesses of all sizes across the country. Currently, in the face of a vastly altered and rapidly changing business landscape, the ACOI say the primary challenges being encountered by their members are around:
- Data Protection: Keeping personal data secure online and in a Working From Home environment
- Financial Crime: The increase in digital, non-face-to-face transactions and managing ongoing monitoring at a time of significant change in client/user behaviour
Mr. Kavanagh said,
“Our members have already had to act swiftly to ensure that new business models and organisational structures protect people and comply with the rules and regulations already in place. This is particularly true in the areas of data protection and financial crime”.
The ACOI are advising businesses and organisations that are preparing to reopen and have concerns around compliance to consult with the National Standards Authority and the Health and Safety Authorities – both of which are providing guides and information to those who require it.