COVID-19: Top Legal Considerations for Organizations

A distant threat until recently, COVID-19 (aka Coronavirus) has now landed squarely on Canadians’ doorsteps, prompting various levels of government to implement urgent action to prevent the spread of the virus.

The virus has significant impacts on organizations as they continue operations in the face of worldwide restrictions, business disruptions, and an increasingly isolated population.

MLT Aikins understands the business continuity concerns of organizations across Western Canada and our team is ready to assist our clients with legal issues as and when they arise. Based on our experience, the following is a brief summary of some of the top potential legal issues that organizations like yours may wish to consider as you prepare and work to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.

1.       Employment and Occupational Health & Safety Matters

Employers have a number of obligations that are relevant in the context of COVID-19 including, for example, the obligation to protect the health and safety of workers at a work site and to accommodate employee illnesses. These obligations raise a number of employment and occupational health and safety issues, as well as related legal considerations including privacy and human rights, that must be carefully considered. Among other things, employers should review their work from home policies, sick day and sick leave policies, communicable illness policies and pandemic plans in order to prepare their workplaces for COVID-19. Employers should also ensure that their actions in preparing for and addressing COVID-19 continue to be in line with privacy and human rights obligations.

Please see our blog for a discussion of preventatives measures that employers can implement to prepare for COVID-19.

Our MLT Aikins Team is ready to assist your organization with any additional case-by-case questions that may arise.

2.       Technology, Cybersecurity and Privacy

There are a number of technology, cybersecurity and privacy issues that have arisen in the face of COVID-19. On the one hand, cyber criminals are using coronavirus as a means to attack and infiltrate organizations and their systems. On the other hand, more organizations are having to implement remote work situations as a result of increasing government restrictions and requirements relating to self-isolation and safety concerns for employees and customers. These issues not only create significant risks to operations and confidential information, but can place significant strain on existing technology, networks, and security. Technology, cybersecurity and privacy issues are complicated and require organizations to be duly diligent in ensuring that their networks remain operational and that their confidential and sensitive commercial and personal information is appropriately protected.

Please see our blogs highlighting some of the key cybersecurity risks to organizations and privacy considerations in the context of COVID-19, and the steps that you can take to protect yourself.

Privacy Considerations | COVID-19

Our MLT Aikins Team is ready to assist your organization with any technology, cybersecurity, or privacy issues that may arise from preparedness to incident response.

3.       Contractual and Regulatory Compliance

Organizations across the world are experiencing interruption to their operations as a result of COVID-19, and this has significant implications on both their ability to perform and enforce contracts and to satisfy regulatory requirements. As this situation develops, organizations should review their various contractual rights and obligations and applicable laws, and assess the potential risks that may arise as a result of COVID-19 (such as nonperformance, delay and default) and determine what preventative steps can be taken to mitigate such risks.

Please see our blogs outlining the key items that organizations should review in their contracts in the context of COVID-19.

Our MLT Aikins Team is ready to assist your organization with any contractual or regulatory review, interpretation, or enforcement issues that may arise.

4.       Insurance Coverage

As the impact of COVID-19 grows, organizations should consider their insurance coverage for losses from the various operational impacts relating to COVID-19. Organizations are well advised to consider what insurance policies they have in place to address such operational impacts, and what the relevant limitations are with respect to that insurance. For example, some organizations will have business interruption insurance coverage under their commercial general liability insurance. Traditionally, such insurance required some physical damage to a facility (e.g. from fire or flood) and would not have provided coverage for losses caused by a virus such as COVID-19. This may be subject to additional endorsements on insurance policies. In addition to considering what insurance is available, organizations must get in touch with their insurers early to ensure that they are taking appropriate steps to document and mitigate losses.

The above is an overview of some of the key issues faced by organizations in the context of COVID-19, but there are many potential issues that could arise based on the circumstances. The MLT Aikins Team will continue to monitor the situation and provide additional updates on legal issues that may impact organizations. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out to our MLT Aikins Team if you require assistance in getting your organization prepared or addressing the operational impacts of COVID-19.

Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.