Coronavirus – Client confidentiality issues when working from home
In this next blog in our series looking at some of the many queries received from our clients through our Ask Teal Service, we consider the client confidentiality issues that may arise when staff work from home.
What are the likely client confidentiality issues when staff work from home?
You’ll need to ensure that your firm continues to comply with rule 6.3 of the Code of Conduct for Firms (which of course applies equally to solicitors), obliging it to keep the affairs of both current and former clients confidential unless disclosure is required or permitted by law or where the client consents.
You’ll also need to consider data protection issues, including the security of the information held at home.You may already have considered this as part of your work in connection with the GDPR.
You should consider how work will be undertaken by staff based at home. For example, where staff have families and may not have access to childcare, they will need to fit in their work alongside other important commitments. With schools closed, it may be difficult to prevent children from interrupting staff whilst working. Staff may need to give some thought as to how they can communicate with clients in a confidential and professional way.
You may recall the famous case at a London law firm where a Partner revealed confidential client information to his wife’s best friend, who then revealed that J K Rowling had written a detective novel under a pseudonym – and he was subsequently disciplined by the SRA.
You should provide guidance to your staff on how to deal with client information when it is kept out of the office. Ensure laptops contain appropriate and current security features and that staff continue to follow your security protocol.If staff use their own equipment, you should check that their virus software is up-to-date and robust.
Remember: criminals will be aware that many eyes may be taken off balls in these highly unpredictable times so it is important that staff are aware of the risks of working at home, in these difficult times, and take steps to mitigate them.
What about dealing with confidential waste?
After scanning documents, you will need to ensure that confidential waste is securely disposed of.
This includes scanned documents and any work produced at home, including draft documents. Consider providing staff with shredding bags to use at home if they don’t have access to a shredder. These can then be returned to the office for secure disposal when staff are next in the office.