· 2 min read · News

Coronavirus pandemic has been an exercise in risk management


Coronavirus has provided businesses with the opportunity to carry out risk management processes in real time, according to Dan Peyton, partner at law firm McGuire Woods LLP.

Speaking at HR magazine’s Lunchtime Debate on 3 December, Peyton said: “Urgent action in terms of risk management needed to be taken on an unprecedented scale and there was only time to make the most important decisions.

“It really has been an exercise in risk management.”

Caroline Smith, deputy general counsel, International at human resources company HireRight and David Frost, group organisational development director at fresh food company Total Produce, made up the rest of the debate panel.

HR magazine’s editor, Jo Gallacher, chaired the debate and asked Peyton what short-term lessons have been learnt from carrying out risk management processes during the pandemic.

“What this has demonstrated is that you can have all the policies in the world and all the terms in your contract that you should have, but ultimately you are reliant in reducing risk on the behaviours of the people who work with you,” Peyton responded.

“And that has much more to do with creating a compliance culture within a business.”

The majority (74%) of people attending the debate said they had reassessed the risk to their workforce during the pandemic.

Just 4% said they hadn’t made any re-adjustments and 22% said they had slightly changed their risk assessment processes.

Further reading

Why risk management should to be part of your culture

Businesses at risk by lack of background checks

Problem-solving in stressful times

Smith said that she was surprised by the results. “When we have done similar polls in the past the percentage who had made changes had been slightly lower,” she said.

“I think now, as we’ve gone into a second lockdown and we’re still in tiered structures, it has given people the ability to realise this won’t all be over by Christmas and so has caused people to now reassess their risk management processes.”

Frost added that the poll’s results resonated to the sentiment he’s received from HR professionals in his network.

“Businesses have had to very quickly decide how they are going to operate safely throughout the pandemic,” he said.

“For example, we’ve (Total Produce) had to put into place new policies and systems of working, whilst acting very formally. For risk assessment we had to make sure that we could have training of staff continue, so things had to change quickly and properly.”

A full write up of HR magazine's lunchtime debate: Why managing risk should be part of your company's culture, will be published in the January/February 2021 issue of HR magazine.

Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk and look out for the on demand version of the debate that will be available soon.