Don’t sit still: is your business ready for the current pace of change? – Contracts and commercial law

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Inflation. Climate change. A persistent pandemic. Risks abound for businesses as we reach the middle of 2022. Here are 10 issues business leaders should consider as they prepare for the tough months to come.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have witnessed substantial change and, perhaps, some of us have changed ourselves. These changes have had an impact on our environmental, health, personal, financial and professional choices. In turn, I see business leaders and managers taking new initiatives to adapt to a myriad of new problems and challenges. This article reviews the top 10 legal issues business owners need to consider as they oversee and manage their businesses through 2022.

  1. Workplace safety. Territorial public health agencies have ended their emergency public health orders, leaving businesses alone to decide whether staff should continue to practice social distancing and wear masks at work. Business leaders should review municipal guidelines in addition to their company’s policies and procedures to align them with best practices and legal obligations to protect the health and safety of staff.

  2. Return to work plans. What is your company’s return to work policy? Does everyone return to the office at the same time and full time? Leaders should ask these questions and document a principled approach to returning to work. They should develop clear and well-articulated policies and procedures on expectations as employees return. They should also clearly state when and if staff are required to report to the office in person, as well as issues such as company dress code.

  3. Electronic meetings. If staff are allowed to work remotely, business leaders should set expectations around presence, privacy, and cybersecurity for working online. Some leaders may consider providing laptops and other electronic devices to staff to enable remote working and online meeting participation.

  4. Board oversight. Boards should be aware of the challenges raised in this article and set the tone and culture of the company. Pressing issues include CEO succession planning, reassessment of the company’s crisis prevention plans, human resources management and preparedness efforts, and skills-based and diversity-based recruiting.

  5. Insurance cover. As territories are exposed to new environmental threats, insurance coverage should be reviewed to determine whether it covers floods, fires, cybersecurity breaches, pandemics, and other unexpected or expected events.

  6. Cybersecurity and data privacy. Business leaders need to re-examine the application of their technology and controls to protect their networks, devices and data from cyberattacks or breaches. This review may involve engaging independent consultants or personnel to assess, monitor, and test a company’s computer systems, technologies, and networks. Again, policies and procedures need to be reviewed and updated.

  7. Recruitment and retention. We are seeing low levels of unemployment across Canada, which means plenty of job opportunities for workers. Recruitment and retention strategies must pay close attention to these changes and adapt to employee demands to work remotely, have flexible working hours, increase salaries and have workplaces diversified.

  8. Force majeure in contracts. When companies sent employees home at the start of the pandemic, work either stopped or slowed down. Many executives have looked into their supply contracts to determine whether force majeure clauses include pandemic events to cover cancellation of supply of services and goods or stoppage of payment during the pandemic. Business owners should ensure that their force majeure clauses reflect unexpected and uncontrollable future events.

  9. Increase in the cost of products and services. Inflation has affected both goods and services globally, which means that all business owners need to carefully consider the costs of the goods or services they buy and produce. Inflation impacts many aspects of running a business, including wages, purchasing, insurance, and information technology. Rising costs make doing business more expensive and raise questions about how to manage these costs.

  10. Environmental and social changes. We live in unprecedented times when it comes to climate change and rapid social change. Business leaders should turn their attention to improving reliance on green energy and make meaningful contributions to environmental impact. Additionally, employees, shareholders and community stakeholders are demanding more of their business leaders to provide safe and diverse workplaces and contributions to the community.

Without a doubt, the pandemic and social changes over the past two years have changed many of us personally and the businesses we run. Here’s a question every business leader should be asking as we navigate our new contexts: How can we make these changes meaningful and impactful for ourselves, our businesses, and our communities?

This article originally appeared in Up Here Business – Issue 2 2022.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.

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