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Tips for HR to Maintain an Employee Handbook while Working Remotely

The cornerstone of communication for HR departments is their employee handbook. Outdated policies not only cause confusion among the employees but also puts the company at jeopardy for several lawsuits. Therefore, it is really important for businesses to review their employee handbook twice a year as a policy as well as revise it every time a new law concerning the employees is introduced. E.g. the recent pandemic has raised serious questions about several compliance policies in companies and to remain clear HR needs to add and subtract several things to this corporate policy document.

Here are 4 tips to keep your employee handbook up to date while we have all started working remotely:

1. Remote Working Policies

As the entire world was forced to shift to remote working, a lot of employees complained that remote working meant they had to be available 24/7 or that their families might be close by when they are taking important work calls. To deal with such things, HR has to upgrade their company privacy policies as well as the timings of employees as well. Having access to the internet all the time should translate into working anytime and every time, especially when it comes to remote working parents, or people who have sick relatives at home etc, they should be given the flexibility of when they want to work or whether they want to work task based or time based etc.

2. New Tools For Communication

Employees who are remote can communicate via calls or SMS all the time, SaaS tools for communication such as slack should be introduced throughout the organisation to make communication easier. Some organisations do use tools like skype but skype does not offer a full range of apps it can connect to such as slack. Introducing new policies to communicate at appropriate timings and on appropriate channels according to the company need to be added to the upgraded employee manuals.

Some policies on accessing company documents and other data through your personal laptops or work laptops should also be in place to avoid data leakage. These policies are to upgraded in the document as well as communicated to the entire company over email or a short meeting

3. New Applicable Laws

New laws regarding employee welfare, different businesses, taxes etc are being introduced all the time. One of the most tedious responsibilities of an HR person is to be on the lookout for these and then after documenting the laws into the handbook, explain them to the employees too. To avoid expensive litigation, federal and local law compliance is of vital importance.

We recommend keeping your employee handbook handy in a word or google doc file and keep updating the chances as they come to you. HR is recommended to convert these policy upgrade meetings into a fun presentation or a 15-20 minute training so that its can become fun for both the parties.

4. Pandemic Contingency Plan

The covid-19 pandemic brought the remote work wave with it. A Lot of people loved working remotely but many questions arose with this plan. Such as what would the company do if another pandemic is to show up ? Would the employees be let go ? How can you make business digital if you were to lose your physical location tomorrow? How will the aggrieved employees who were let go be compensated and several other questions.

We recommend HR needs to ask the employees to send their questions that were looming in their thoughts during the pandemic and devise policies to answer those questions for the future. An entire pandemic contingency plan section should be a part of all the employee handbooks from 2020 onwards.

Whether you are starting from scratch or just upgrading the previous handbook, the two important steps include taking feedback from employees and keeping your handbook up to date according to the employee issues as well as the law. Let us know what interesting policies your company came up with to help their employees.

Provisional Job Stability of Disabled Employees due to Pandemic

At the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020, the world observed the disastrous trajectory of the Sars-Cov-2 Coronavirus, which infected thousands of people in the city of Wuhan, China, and spread to several provinces in that country, and then around the world.

In Brazil, the Ministry of Health published, on February 3, 2020, Ordinance (Portaria) no. 188/2020, which declared a Public Health Emergency of National Importance (ESPIN), due to Human Infection by the new Coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

On February 6, 2020, Law no. 13.979/2020 was published, containing measures for countering the ESPIN, due to the outbreak of the virus. The Law has suffered subsequent changes.

On March 11, 2020, the Director-General of the World Health Organisation, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, declared the existence of a pandemic, resulting from COVID-19, motivating the Brazilian National Congress to establish a state of calamity, until December 31, 2020, through Legislative Decree no. 6/2020. A series of Provisional Measures (MPs) were issued in order to counter the pandemic.

One of the MPs was no. 936, converted, on July 6, 2020, into Law no. 14.020/2020, which created the so-called Emergency Program for the Maintenance of Employment and Income, and provided, in article 1, for complementary measures to combat the public health emergency caused by the coronavirus.

When MP no. 936 was converted into Law 14.020, article 17 was introduced, which prohibits the unjustified dismissal of disabled persons while the state of calamity persists. This category of employees was not singled out in the texts of the MP or of Law 13.979/2020 and its subsequent amendments.

It is an undoubted fact that persons with disabilities deserve differential treatment, in order to provide them with protection and ensure their inclusion in society and in the job market, as in Law no. 8.213/91, which provides for the mandatory hiring of these persons, pursuant to a pre-established quota.

Portaria no. 188 of February 3, 2020, of Ministry of Health, accessed on February 10, 2021. (Click here to read.)

Note that the social security legislation imposed, on a permanent basis, an obligation on the employer to hire a certain number of persons with disabilities, unlike article 17 of Law no. 10.020/2020, which guarantees protection to this group of employees only for the duration of the state of calamity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the state of calamity, which is the subject of Legislative Decree no. 06/2020, was not extended by the National Congress and, furthermore, Justice Ricardo Lewandowski of the Federal Supreme Court (STF), when hearing Direct Unconstitutionality Action (ADI) no. 6.625 MC/DF, maintained the validity of a number of articles of Law no. 13.979/20, but made no reference to the provision dealing with persons with disabilities. From this standpoint, there would be no question of stability of employment for this category of employees.

On the other hand, termination, on December 31, 2020, of the validity of Legislative Decree no. 6/2020, to which Law no. 13.979/20 is linked, unfortunately did not put an end to the state of calamity and the hardship imposed by the Sars-Cov-2 Coronavirus, reported on a daily basis by all the media. On the contrary, Brazil still faces great difficulties in combating COVID-19, which takes the lives of hundreds of people every day, and incapacitates many others.

This fact was stressed by Supreme Court Justice Ricardo Lewandowski, in the decision rendered in ADI no. 6.625 MC/DF. He considered that it was prudent and advisable that the exceptional measures contained in Law no. 13.979/2020 be maintained to combat the pandemic. The STF also ruled that the States may, through their Legislative Assemblies, decree the maintenance of the state of public calamity, as done by Minas Gerais (Decree no. 48.102/2020), Paraná (Decree no. 6.543/2020) and Tocantins (Decree no. 6.202/2020), besides several Brazilian municipalities.

Another question comes up. In view of the state and/or municipal decrees, which extend the state of public calamity, is it possible to maintain the employment of persons with disabilities, as provided for in item V, article 17, of Law no. 10.020/2020.

The exclusive competence of the Federal Government to legislate on Labour Law, provided for in art. 22, I, of the Constitution of 1988, prevents state or municipal governments from doing so. However, in this specific case, the federal law exists and may be applied, in theory, since the state of calamity remains.

The discussion on the subject is still far from over, and, little by little, lawsuits are reaching the Courts seeking the reinstatement of persons with disabilities dismissed after the enactment of Law no. 10.020/2020.

We suggest caution, therefore, when dealing with this issue, taking care to verify possible collective rules issued during this period and that may have regulated the matter in a similar or even wider manner than the law under comment.

Renata Gallo Tabacchi Gava de Oliveira and Patrícia Salviano Teixeira
Associate lawyers in Labour Law Area – São Paulo
[email protected] and [email protected]

Top Reasons Why Healthcare Businesses Get Sued In 2021

Healthcare businesses work in one of the most sensitive and risky fields, human error or negligence can cause life-threatening problems, and can even lead to death. The stakes are high when dealing with a patient’s health, when things go wrong, it can leave healthcare businesses vulnerable to lawsuits. There are around 85,000 lawsuits filed for medical malpractice every year, and an estimated 1 million injuries related to medical care, in the US alone! With the worldwide pandemic, there are now even more cases than ever. Here are some of the top reasons why healthcare businesses get sued in 2021.

Delayed Diagnosis And Misdiagnosis

The most common cause of lawsuits filed against healthcare professionals is that of misdiagnosis/delayed diagnosis. With about one-third of all cases pertaining to these reasons. The problems that can come from an incorrect diagnosis can be severe, with no fault on the patient, with many cases leading to incorrect or unnecessary surgery, the prescription if incorrect drugs or a serious issue can go untreated. Up to 12 million patients are affected by misdiagnosis each year, with up to 80,000 deaths related to negligence in diagnosis.

One of the top things a healthcare business can do to avoid lawsuits is to prevent misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis by putting in extra effort and care in the diagnosis process with patients. Healthcare professionals should seek a second opinion on complicated diagnoses, they can also work with nurses to do a preliminary diagnosis to determine the priority of patients. Having a well-trained and competent staff that can spot serious issues and double-check a doctor’s diagnosis can save lives and reduce the risk of ending up in court.

Mistakes With Prescription Drugs

The American Food and Drug Administration is said to receive upwards of 100,000 medication error reports annually. Wrongly prescribed medication is a big problem and is one of the top reasons why healthcare businesses get sued.

Medication errors can come from both patient/caregiver and healthcare professionals. There are nine types of medication errors from healthcare businesses that could lead to a lawsuit, including failure to prescribe a drug, prescribing the wrong drug or dosage, failure to take into account a patient’s medical conditions or drug allergies, or prescribing drugs unlawfully. This is unfortunately quite common with up to 1 in 5 American patients who have received a medical error during hospital stays or receiving health care. Doctors, pharmacists, and caregivers can all be liable for suing from errors with prescription drugs

Medical Procedure Errors

In the United States, there are around 4,000 surgical errors each year, with some resulting in death. Medical procedures and surgeries pose risks either through error, medical complications or because of the complexity of a procedure. When we go in for an operation we are putting our lives in the hands of the medical professionals, but sometimes errors will occur and could lead to a lawsuit from the patient or their families. Some of these errors can include performing surgery on an incorrect body part, performing a procedure on the incorrect patient, complications with anaesthesia, not following proper medical procedures, or even leaving medical materials inside the body. Medical malpractice cases end 96.5% of the time in settlements, with the average malpractice settlement in The United States is around $300,000 and can have huge implications for any healthcare business.

Medical Malpractice Claims Due To COVID-19

Throughout 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the planet, hospitals and healthcare professionals came under a huge amount of pressure from dealing with the virus and the increased number of patients. Through April and June of 2020, there was a 400% increase in medical malpractice reports, with the increase being linked to COVID-19. Following proper pandemic procedures, sourcing the correct medical equipment, and giving proper support to medical staff can help reduce the chance of medical malpractice in the very trying and difficult conditions that have been experienced due to the pandemic.

What Actions Can Be Taken By Authorities?

If a healthcare business is suspect of fraudulent activity or medical malpractice, it may be subject to investigation from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). If you suspect your healthcare business is under investigation, you may need some OIG investigation tips to help avoid some of the consequences of a conviction. If a healthcare business is in an investigation, it can lose funding from federal programs, receive sizable fines, and can even face criminal charges and medical licenses revoked.

Healthcare Businesses Should Keep Up With The News

Keeping up with current events in any field is important for any business. For businesses in the healthcare industry, it can be important for following medical developments, pandemic-related news, and news relating to medical lawsuits or changes in medical malpractice policy. You can follow or use certain news platforms to follow industry-specific developments or to publish press releases relating to the field. Taking these steps can help any business interact with other professionals in the industry and keep up-to-date with industry news and developments.

Fraud

Finally, Fraud can be a huge issue in the medical field, with over 300 convictions and over $6 billion in fraudulent claims. Both patients and medical practitioners can be convicted of fraudulent activity and can even result in jap time. The economic cost of fraud can be huge, with an estimated 3-10% of all medical expenditure being fraudulent.

Medical malpractice and fraud will continue to be a big issue throughout the rest of the year. With huge pressure on the healthcare system due to the ongoing pandemic, it will continue to be a difficult and stressful time for healthcare professionals and businesses. Following proper medical practices and taking pandemic precautions seriously will be required to help reduce the instances of healthcare businesses facing lawsuits, fines, loss of licenses, or criminal convictions. It is the responsibility of every healthcare business to take rigorous measures to make sure their standards and practices are of the highest possible, and all precautions are taken to ensure the safest and most honest treatment for its patients, and the proper care and support for its medical employees.

R&D return on pharma investment picks up for the first time in six years

In 2020, projected returns on investment in research and development (R&D) for a combined cohort of 15 global pharmaceutical companies was 2.5 per cent, 0.9 percentage points higher than in 2019. This is the first sign of a reversal in the declining trend seen over the past seven years, according to research by Deloitte’s Centre for Health Solutions.

The range in performance between the top performing and bottom performing companies has narrowed, however, with all but one company having an internal rate of return (IRR) below the industry weighted average cost of capital. (The weighted average cost of capital is acknowledged by most industries as the most common discounted cash flow method to derive enterprise value.)

In 2020, the cohort saw an increase in average forecast peak sales per pipeline asset (the amount of money a drug is expected to generate annually) to $421 million, from $357 million in 2019. However, the average cost to develop an asset (bring a drug to market) increased once more to $2,442 million, up $51 million compared to 2019 and a $1,115 million increase since 2013.

The increase in costs per asset is due mainly to a fall in the overall number of assets in late stage pipelines (the final stage of R&D before a drug is launched to market) which decreased from 213 in 2019 to 207 in 2020. Between 1 May 2019 and 30 April 2020, the cohort had a total of 53 assets approved, an increase from 39 in 2019.

Deloitte also commissioned analysis measuring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on clinical trials to investigate the likely impact on future year returns. The analysis revealed that between March and November 2020, the pandemic affected an estimated 1,210 trials across the industry. The vast majority of these (66 per cent) had delayed starts or completions; and eight per cent were terminated (permanently stopped) or withdrawn (stopped before enrolling any patients).

Colin Terry, Consulting Partner for European Life Sciences R&D at Deloitte, commented: “We are finally seeing seeds of change in the projected R&D productivity given recent progress of some novel trial designs and improvements in efficiency through the digitalisation of drug discovery and development. However, adoption continues to be experimental and not at scale across the industry, although accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic across all stakeholders and regulators. The ‘need for speed’ has become all-encompassing alongside the realisation that development cycle times need to be reduced and new ways of working embraced to finally see the industry break the trends of the last decade.”

Neil Lesser, Principal, US Life Sciences R&D Leader at Deloitte added: “While the uptick in performance is encouraging, sustaining it will require companies to continue investing in approaches that led to this positive direction. These include expanding investments in digital technologies and data science approaches, as well as increasing the use of transformative development models. The industry’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic proved that biopharma innovation can be speeded up through creative approaches to drug development – only time will tell if this progress becomes a permanent legacy.”

Norton Rose Fulbright advises Cooper Pharma on contract

Global law firm Norton Rose Fulbright has advised Cooper Pharma on its granted license with United PPE to develop and manufacture COVID-19 diagnostic tests using Sherlock’s CRISPR technology. The contract has been granted under The 221b Foundation, a non-profit organisation established by Sherlock Biosciences to address the global COVID-19 pandemic while promoting diverse representation in STEM.

CRISPR technology called SHERLOCK (Specific High-sensitivity Enzymatic Reporter unlocking) and the diagnostic platform can achieve single molecule detection of nucleic acid targets. SHERLOCK utilises CRISPR activity for “smart amplicon detection” and can be adapted for use with existing diagnostic instruments, improving time to result due to its significant multiplexing capacity. When a specific sequence of DNA or RNA is present, a CRISPR enzyme is activated and, much like a pair of scissors, starts cutting nearby genetic material, releasing a fluorescent signal that indicates a positive result.

Morocco-based Cooper Pharma is a leading laboratory of the national pharmaceutical industry, which has supported health professionals and aims to increase access to medicines.

Adjou Ait Ben Idir, Dubai-based corporate partner who led on the deal, commented: “This contract will enable increased access to COVID-19 testing in Asia and the Middle East. The design will be able to cover new and emerging variants, which remains of the upmost importance as we navigate through the pandemic.”

Mr Ayman Cheikh-Lahlou, shareholder and CEO of Cooper Pharma, commented: “CRISPR technology is opening massive avenues in the healthcare products application industry. Cooper International is well positioned with its expert team in Dubai to attract CRISPR Companies from around the world to participate in co-development projects and to deploy them mainly across the Europe, Middle East and Africa region.”

The Norton Rose Fulbright Dubai team also included senior associate Zaid Al-Rizzo and counsel Jonathan Burton.

Pinsent Masons named as a Top 50 Employer for Women by The Times

Multinational law firm Pinsent Masons has been recognised for its commitment to achieving gender equality, being named in The Times Top 50 Employers for Women report for the fifth consecutive year.

The Times Top 50 Employers for Women annual listing identifies companies which embed gender equality into their business strategy. Businesses are assessed on a range of areas, including their approach to recruitment, family friendly policies and how they have championed gender equality in the context of the pandemic.

Pinsent Masons has enhanced its commitment to inclusion and belonging in recent years to further support its people and promote equality across its business. Earlier this year, the firm brought forward the launch its Global Carers Policy to support families and individuals with caring responsibilities affording additional annual leave and launched several new network groups including its Fertility Support Group and Fan Club, its menopause awareness group.

Senior partner at Pinsent Masons, Richard Foley, said: “Equality in all forms is critical if business is to work better for people. While it’s clear that significant progress has been made across the profession over the last decade, I am fully aware that more can and should be done to build on the positive changes we have made at Pinsent Masons such as support for working families and the continued rollout of agile working.

“There are no quick fixes to achieving equality and recognising the challenges and how far there is still to go ensures that we continue to listen to our people and collaborate with other businesses to improve and adapt in a way that promotes equality in its broadest sense.”

Gender Equality Director at Business in the Community, Charlotte Woodworth, said: “COVID-19 has shone a light on how far we have to go on gender equality: by having to pick up things like the bulk of extra caring responsibilities, women have been disproportionately affected by lockdown.

“We congratulate the many employers who have maintained their efforts towards gender equality at this time, often introducing innovative policies to support their workforce during this period. This year’s application process for The Times Top 50 Employers for Women was the most competitive one we have seen in five years. Employers like Pinsent Masons haven’t forgotten women at work and they are committed to making gender inequality a thing of the past.”