Coronavirus – Practical help for law firms. Dealing with the absence of key Compliance Officers
Continuing our series of blogs looking at some of the many queries received from our clients through our Ask Teal service, here we consider the Solicitor’s Regulatory Authority (SRA) likely approach to absences of key compliance staff.
Question: Will the SRA look at derogations on the restriction on outsourcing key compliance roles?
We do not think that the SRA will relax the requirements for firms to have outsourced COLPs – they will still expect someone within the business to undertake this role.
We recommend that if you have not done so already, that you identify and train up Deputies as soon as possible. You should consider this for your COLP, COFA and MLRO roles.
Given the absence of live training at present, many training providers have on-line or recorded versions of suitable training courses you can use; you should focus on getting each person up to speed on their respective obligations to ensure compliance, and in particularly their reporting obligations.
Subsequent to our recent “Ask Teal” Webinar on Coronavirus issues, the SRA issued guidance which it is updating as and when issues arise. Looking at the guidance, it is in line with our guidance and usefully specifically addressed the issue of what to do should COLPs, COFAs, MLROs or MLCOs fall ill. They comment that firms should already have plans in place to deal with times when these persons take ill.
They go on to state that, if a firm was to cease having a COLP or COFA who can carry out the role, for example, due to leaving their job or being off on long-term sick, then firms should apply to the SRA for temporary emergency approval of a Compliance Officer under Rule 15.2 of the SRA Authorisation of Firms Rules.
Similarly, they note that many firms will have Deputies in place to support a firm’s MLRO or MLCO. If the existing MLRO or MLCO leaves or is absent due to long term sickness which means that they are unable to carry out their role, the firm must notify the SRA of replacements within 14 days of any change (https://www.sra.org.uk/sra/news/coronavirus-qa/).