Extracts and Information sourced from: ‘COVID-19: FAQs for NGOs’ published by PILA, a project of FLAC.
COVID-19 presents a significant number of both standard and novel employment law issues for NGO employers. Organisations have a duty of care toward their employees and must ensure their health and safety as far as reasonably practicable. What is ‘reasonably practicable’ at any particular time will depend on the worker, the job, the environment and the risks. It can change over time. Your organisation will need to ensure it is taking appropriate steps to manage all staff in a manner consistent with that duty of care in the face of this pandemic. It will be vital to monitor up-to-date information provided from the World Health Organisation and the HSE, to act on any guidance provided, as well as comply with the usual employment law legislation, regulations and case law.
– The law firm A&L Goodbody has put together a list of Top 10 Employer COVID-19 FAQs https://www.algoodbody.com/insights-publications/covid-19-top-10-employer-faqs
– The Wheel has a useful resource Guidance for NGO employers https://www.wheel.ie/employers
– The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection has produced Guidance for Employers https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/612b90-covid-19-information-for-employers/
The board of your organisation is responsible for, among other things, anticipating and managing the risks which you may face. The recent spread of COVID-19 is likely to create risks for your NGO, which your board should consider and address.
– Arthur Cox has issued specific guidance on AGMs and COVID-19 https://www.arthurcox.com/COVID-19/corporate-and-ma/covid-19-making-contingency-plans-for-agms-2/
– The Carmichael Centre is contactable by email for advice on governance related issues at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Funding agreements, contracts and SLAs
Organisations should consider the potential staffing, operational and financial impacts of COVID-19 on the organisation and how these may have consequences for delivery of existing contract commitments. All funders, both State and philanthropic will be acutely aware that this crisis will place many organisations in great difficulty, and many will be willing to discuss and renegotiate the terms of existing contracts in light of the evolving situation. It is advisable to speak with funders at an early opportunity to explore possible options. Every contract is different. Some contracts will contain in-built provisions which allow the parties to vary or change the terms where some unexpected event (like a pandemic or “force majeure”) happens. Others contain “termination” or “hardship” clauses. The particular contract should be examined carefully and evaluated on a case-by-case basis. However, specialist legal advice should always be sought before suspending performance of contractual obligations, terminating the contract or seeking to vary the terms of the contract.
– Arthur Cox has published a guide to COVID-19 Practical Considerations: Force Majeure clauses in contracts https://www.arthurcox.com/COVID-19/corporate-and-ma/covid-19-practical-considerations-force-majeure-clauses-in-contracts/
– Eversheds Sutherland has provided information on what organisations need to know about force majeure and frustration https://www.eversheds-sutherland.com/global/en/what/publications/shownews.page?News=en/ireland/coronavirus-what-do-businesses-need-to-know-about-force-majeure-and-frustration-ireland
The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner has noted that many of the steps which voluntary organisations may be taking to contain the spread and mitigate the effects of COVID-19 will involve the processing of personal data (such as name, address, workplace, travel details) of individuals, including in many cases sensitive, ‘special category’ personal data (such as
data relating to health). The increased numbers of employees who are now working remotely will also raise data protection issues. The Data Protection Commissioner has said that ‘measures taken in response to COVID-19 involving the use of personal data, including health data, should be necessary and proportionate. Decisions in this regard should be informed by the guidance and/or directions of public health authorities, or other relevant authorities’. For data subject requests, the timelines are set in law, however the Data Protection Commissioner suggests taking a number of steps, including
communicating delays with the individual concerned and availing of the two month extension to the period.
– The Data Protection Commissioner has issued two guidance notes: COVID-19 and Data Protection https://dataprotection.ie/en/news-media/blogs/data-protection-and-covid-19 and Protecting Personal Data When Working Remotely https://dataprotection.ie/en/protecting-personal-data-when-working-remotely-0
– McCann Fitzgerald have issued some general guidance on Coronavirus and Data Protection – Four Points for Employers https://www.mccannfitzgerald.com/knowledge/data-privacy-and-cyber-risk/coronavirus-and-data-protection-four-points-for-employers
It is advisable to try to carefully identify the impact of COVID-19 on your organisation, especially what loss has been and may be suffered by the organisation as a result. Some typical examples may be cancelled events or fundraisers, cancelled travel plans, or COVID-related harm to employees or volunteers. It is always useful to record a chronology of key details and
events, and retain any relevant documentation. Insurers will expect you to take reasonable steps to reduce (mitigate) any
loss, so think about how you can minimise the damage to the organisation and keep this under review. This can be a complicated and lengthy process so do not be rushed by insurers to finalise your claim. You will also need to consider whether the organisation is at risk from claims by others against the organisation. The next step is to review your insurance policies to understand whether insurance might cover those impacts. Your organisation should then confirm the scope of insurance cover and the policy conditions with your broker.
– Arthur Cox has provided Practical Considerations on Insurance Coverage https://www.arthurcox.com/COVID-19/insurance-and-reinsurance/covid-19-practical-considerations-insurance-coverage/
Further details and contact details for FLAC can be found in the full published document located here https://www.pila.ie/assets/files/pdf/pila_covid-19_faqs_for_ngos_26_march_2020.pdf?issuusl=ignore