Legal Ramifications of Corona: A Lawyer’s Perspective

Last year, the global economic growth was roughly 3.0% and the global GDP was estimated at around $86.6 trillion, according to statistics published by Statista. At the moment, the global GDP growth is down to 2.4%. It can potentially go even further down before 2021.

People wearing mask in public place

While this percentage may seem insignificant, it certainly isn’t. That’s because this less than-than-one percentage drop in global GDP amounts to $3.5 billion in lost economic output.

The coronavirus outbreak hasn’t just affected us financially. There are certain legal consequences many people aren’t even aware of. But that’s what we’re here to discuss.

To get a unique perspective on the situation, we talked to Bobby Gill, lawyer and wealth manager. With over three decades of experience in the legal business, lawyer Bobby Gill was able to offer a unique perspective on the current situation.

Without wasting any more time, let’s dive right in.

When Will Employers Reopen Offices

As Mr. Gill explains, 6 months have passed since the start of the pandemic and workers are now wondering when they’ll return to their offices. The answer to this burning question might be more complicated than some might expect.

A recent BBC survey of 50 largest employers in the UK revealed that almost 50% of them have no plans to return workers in offices in the near future. This information is alarming for numerous reasons.

Here are a few more takeaways from the survey:

  • Only 6% of top firms have brought all of their staff members back
  • 40% have returned staff members that weren’t able to telecommute
  • 40% have plans to bring back workers gradually over the next 12 months

Some small businesses, like stores and craft shops, depend on on-premises workers. A mandatory return to the office would come with problems as well.

A good percentage of employees still don’t feel comfortable enough to start their office life and daily commute so soon after the peak of the pandemic. If an employee gets fired due to not showing, the business owner could have a liability charge on their hands.

Social Distancing in the Workplace

The people who’ve returned to the office are a minority and their experience is far from problem-free. For instance, according to social distancing guidelines, a worker in the UK needs to be distanced 2 meters from the nearest co-worker.

In situations where this isn’t possible – bathrooms, tight corridors, and small conference rooms – the workers are still expected to keep a distance of 1 meter. Seeing how not all workers have returned to the office, maintaining the mandatory distance is possible.

However, as Mr. Gill explains, certain social activities, like daily meetings, prevent workers from following the rules completely. If these activities happen on a daily basis, the employer needs to consider abandoning them altogether. In some cases, this isn’t possible.

An opportunistic worker could use this to sue the employee for endangering them in the workplace. Do situations like these occur regularly? Probably not, but they’re not unrealistic. We can safely say this due to…

Increased Number of Negligence Claims

Employers in the UK, US, and other developed countries are facing lawsuits filed by unsatisfied workers, claiming they’ve contracted COVID-19 while working, due to the negligence of their superiors.

Before the pandemic, employers were rarely found liable in cases such as these. That’s because proving that someone is liable for your contracting a disease isn’t easy. However, in this situation, the trend might be reversed by COVID-19.

Thus far, the majority of negligence claims focused on proving that the employer wasn’t following official guidance for preventing coronavirus’ spread. Claims include a lack of safety equipment, face masks, and social distancing.

Even though a vast majority of these claims have been filed in the US – there are currently 69 cases – Bobby Gill warns that the trend will probably soon spread. Some officials are even considering giving business owners liability protection until the pandemic is over.

A Need for Coronavirus-specific Policies

Because lawsuits are now occurring more regularly than ever, many business owners are working on policies to deal with the current situation. However, potential lawsuits during a crisis aren’t the only problem, Bobby says.

Certain employers are also working on handbooks that should address everything from workplace safety and social distancing to office visitors and remote workers. For some, this is just a small part of their Return to Workplace strategy.

However, business owners need to be careful when writing and implementing new rules. If they’re not careful they could end up violating the privacy of their workers. Every piece of data they collect from their employees should be handled with care and attention.

Let’s look at temperature screenings for example. Although this isn’t required in the UK, some employers are trying to implement it to keep their offices safe. Since this practice involves health data processing, the officials aren’t sure if this act is justified or not.

Final Thoughts

The current situation is as hard as it is. When you take potential legal problems into consideration, it’s even more complicated. That’s why employers should try to maintain high hygiene levels in the workplace, pay attention to government guidance, and adjust their business operations for telecommuting to keep their business afloat.

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