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ARLINGTON, Va., May 1, 2020

Gartner Says Legal & Compliance Leaders Are Least Prepared to Address COVID-19 Employee Safety Decisions Associated with a Return to the Workplace

Leaders Should Focus on Three Main Aspects for Returning to Work

As legal and compliance leaders arrange for their organizations to return to work amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, 55% of general counsel feel least prepared to address employee safety decisions, according to a poll by Gartner, Inc. An April 27, 2020 Gartner poll of 95 legal leaders examined what standards must be in place for employees to return to the workplace.

“Most organizations aren’t completely ready to return to the workplace right now,” said Vidhya Balasubramanian, managing vice president in the Gartner Legal and Compliance practice. “However, legal leaders are developing return to workplace standards and protocols that will enable employees to safely return to work and also comply with any local requirements and public health considerations.”

Gartner experts say that legal and compliance leaders should focus on three main aspects of returning to work: Monitoring developments for when to return to the workplace; developing new work standards that will ensure employee safety and compliance with local mandates; and working with business leaders to develop new onsite safety measures that will protect employee health and privacy.

Monitoring Developments
“As local mandates regarding lockdowns and essential business vary significantly, legal and compliance leaders are faced with tough decisions in balancing employee health and safety considerations, local restrictions, and pressures to return to the workplace,” said Ms. Balasubramanian.

Many of these leaders are attempting to navigate variations in international, national, state and local mandates and requirements, while: 

  • Streamlining compliance by applying the most stringent guidance across operations.
  • Working directly with regional VPs or other local “boots on the ground” to track evolving requirements, and quickly communicate changes, to take a localized approach when necessary. 
  • Planning for the possibility of a second wave of infections.

Developing a Return to Workplace Playbooks 
In the April 27 Gartner poll, 95% of legal leaders said that social or physical distancing measures must be put in place before allowing any return to work. Many are preparing a “return to workplace” playbook which includes protecting employees, establishing social or physical distancing requirements, providing adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), and screening for symptoms (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Return to Workplace Standards

Collecting Onsite Health and Safety Information
“Safely returning to the workplace and monitoring the ongoing health and safety of the employee workforce requires collecting an unprecedented amount of employee data, particularly employee health information,” said Ms. Balasubramanian. “Public health considerations have dramatically softened local social, cultural, and privacy norms.”

Recent survey results also highlight that 59% of legal leaders are considering or currently collecting COVID-19 test results and 47% are considering or collecting current symptom data. Many are working with HR and facilities to collect temperature data (keeping privacy considerations in mind) and using contact tracing apps and technologies to monitor employee locations.

“While many companies are facing business pressures to return to the workplace, the most progressive companies understand this decision requires a ‘dial,’ not a ‘switch.’ Any plans to effectively balance the employee health and safety requirements with legal and privacy considerations must also include mechanisms to monitor developments and appropriately calibrate the response as necessary,” said Ms. Balasubramanian.

Gartner for Legal & Compliance Leaders clients can access the complete findings in the following webinar replay: “Emerging Issues Related to COVID-19: Learn How Your Peers are Responding (April 27)

Non-clients can review the latest report in General Counsel Actions in Response to COVID-19 and find many complimentary pieces of content and research at Gartner’s coronavirus site.

About the Gartner Legal & Compliance Practice
The Gartner Legal & Compliance practice supports senior legal and compliance executives with their most critical priorities. Gartner offers a unique breadth and depth of content to support clients’ individual success and deliver on key initiatives that cut across finance functions to drive business impact. Learn more at https://www.gartner.com/en/legal-compliance/role/legal-compliance-leaders.

About Gartner

Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT) is the world’s leading research and advisory company and a member of the S&P 500. We equip business leaders with indispensable insights, advice and tools to achieve their mission-critical priorities today and build the successful organizations of tomorrow.

Our unmatched combination of expert-led, practitioner-sourced and data-driven research steers clients toward the right decisions on the issues that matter most. We are a trusted advisor and an objective resource for more than 14,000 enterprises in more than 100 countries — across all major functions, in every industry and enterprise size.

To learn more about how we help decision makers fuel the future of business, visit gartner.com.

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