As instances of the coronavirus are on the rise both nationally and across Iowa, it’s important for businesses to assess their contingency and disaster plans. Yesterday, Governor Kim Reynolds signed a disaster proclamation following the Iowa Department of Public Health’s confirmation of 8 cases of COVID-19 in Iowa. The threat is real and requires businesses to plan accordingly.
BrownWinick remains hopeful that the effects of the coronavirus are minor in scope. However, we understand the potential for business disruption should the virus become widespread. That said, we have reviewed our plans to ensure preparedness and responsiveness if wide-spread illness should occur. For example, we have confirmed the firm’s capacity for videoconferencing, remote work, online collaboration, electronic signatures, electronic court filings, and key redundancies. These capabilities ensure that we can continue to provide timely and robust legal support should an increased presence of the virus threaten our work environment and require such actions. To the extent information about BrownWinick’s disaster response plan would impact key stakeholders, further updates would be posted on the firm’s website, social media, and other outlets.
As a business owner or employer, it is essential that a customized plan for your business be in place. Here are a few thoughts that may be useful as you consider the potential impact of the coronavirus on your particular situation.
- Embrace the Uncertainty.
- The economic uncertainty may allow for additional influence in negotiations, supplier contracts, or other business relationships. This may force the examination of processes that could use improvement.
- Competitors may be less prepared, more leveraged, or simply less lucky. Pricing for mergers and acquisitions could become more attractive for individuals or firms willing to move in uncertain times.
- Lock-In for the Long Term.
- The credit market continues to see pressure on interest rates. Assuming these rates are reflected in your financing costs, extending the term and refinancing existing debt could prove advantageous on a number of fronts.
- Review and Revise Key Contracts.
- Many contracts contain “force majeure” clauses that may be applicable for situations of wide-spread illnesses or supply chain disruption. The damages from failing to provide goods or services may be mitigated by such contractual language. If you are a buyer, be ready to find alternative sources of supply.
- Consider if the penalties for failing to deliver goods or services are payable, sustainable, or applicable within contracts that are key to your operations.
- Proactively renegotiate the portion of contracts that is unworkable so that all parties have clear expectations.
- Consider HR Policies/Procedures and Educate Employees.
- Review your current handbook regarding policies for work interruption, teleworking, absences, punch-in/punch-out and illness to ensure procedures and policies are coherent, compliant, and understood.
- Educate your workforce on proper illness prevention and control.
- Enhance your disaster recovery plan and communicate the plan to employees.
For more information on this topic, please contact your BrownWinick attorney or call 515.242.2400. You can also find additional information related to this topic here: Coronavirus-Getting Back to Basics.