Covid-19: Directive to financial institutions on precautionary measures when performing essential financial services

​​The Financial Sector Conduct Authority and Prudential Authority issued a directive on 9 April 2020, under the Disaster Management Act, setting out appropriate precautionary measures that financial institutions performing essential financial services should follow during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Many of the measures contained in the directive are probably already in place at workplaces (e.g. social distancing and providing sanitizing equipment and material), but not all.  We list below all the measures in the directive and draw your attention to a few that are unlikely to have been implemented yet. These are: temperature screening everyone entering and leaving the premises, keeping a register of all employees and visitors to the premises for a month; providing an isolation area for employees who feel unwell due to Covid-19-related symptoms; and appointing a co-ordinator responsible for Covid-19-related matters.

The directive requires the following steps to be taken:​

  • The head of the financial institution must attempt to minimise the number of essential staff members and must, as far as possible, allow staff members to work remotely to support essential services.
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  • A financial institution must take appropriate precautionary measures to reduce the risk of exposure, transmission and spread of Covid-19, and must put appropriate measures in place to ensure minimal physical contact between staff by:
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    • replacing face-to-face contact with virtual communication, where possible;
    • implementing a spacing policy to maintain a safe distance of at least one and a half metres between employees at workstations, including in areas such as cafeterias and break rooms;
    • avoiding face-to-face meetings, where possible;
    • arranging seats or meeting room layouts so that participants are at least one and a half meters apart, if a physical meeting is absolutely necessary; and
    • providing employees with sufficient protective supplies and materials, including tissues and hand sanitizers and, where possible, requiring them to wear surgical masks.

       

  • A financial institution must:
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    • establish the necessary protocols for temperature screening everyone entering and leaving their business premises and take reasonable steps to ensure that staff with Covid-19-type symptoms are identified, tested and stay at home;
    • require employees to stay at home, even if they only have mild symptoms of Covid-19;
    • maintain a register of the names and contact details of all staff members on the premises and visitors to the premises for at least a month;
    • establish procedures for staff who are sick at work, including identifying a room or area where someone who is feeling unwell or exhibits Covid-19 symptoms can be safely isolated;
    • require staff members who have come into contact with a confirmed Covid-19 case to self-quarantine at home for 14 days while being monitored for symptoms;
    • encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or elbow;
    • appropriately educate employees about how they can reduce the spread of Covid-19;
    • discourage employees from using their colleagues’ phones, desks and offices;
    • ensure that hand soap and running water are available or, if this is not possible, alcohol-based hand rub containing at least 70% alcohol;
    • provide the workplace with surface disinfectants and disposable towels for staff to clean their hands and work surfaces;
    • require and encourage regular hand washing or using alcohol-based hand rubs; and
    • maintain regular housekeeping practices, including routine cleaning and disinfecting  frequently-touched surfaces such as desks, telephones and keyboards.

     

  • develop and implement an infectious disease preparedness and response plan that can help guide protective actions against Covid-19.
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  • identify a workplace co-ordinator who will be responsible for Covid-19-related issues and their impact on the workplace and will timeously respond to requests for information from the authorities.

This directive was effective from 9 April 2020 and remains effective for the duration of the current lockdown period (until 30 April 2020), including any extension period.​