Ensuring confidentiality is sacrosanct in an inquiry whether it is conducted while ‘Work from Home (WFH)’ or at the office.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has prematurely killed the debate on the kind of work that can be executed from the confines of the home, now, more than ever, there is a greater obligation to maintain confidentiality, in principle as well as via physically securing the WFH area and through digital security.
Signals from the Legal world
Due to the pandemic, the Indian judicial system, groaning under the weight of pending investigations, has signaled its intention to evolve into a mix of physical and virtual courts. As the broader principles of the judicial system set the larger template for investigations led by IC’s, hence IC’s are likely to follow by adapting to both physical and virtual processes. These changes make it all the more imperative for sexual harassment investigations to stay true to the basic tenets of trust, empathy, and confidentiality – whether they are conducted virtually or in-person.
Impact of loss of confidentiality in investigations
The lack of confidentiality in investigations can be particularly disastrous for organizations and result in:
- Loss of employee trust
- Increased fear of retaliation against the victim
- Legal battles leading to loss of brand name and goodwill, and
- Low employee morale
- Can lead to defamation to the parties involved
What can organizations do to ensure confidentiality in SH investigations is maintained?
The sudden jump in engaging through our screens may result in accountability getting slippery. Organizations need to proactively prepare employees to adhere to the confidentiality requirements of working remotely. They include:
- Reiterate the importance – IC teams are collectively competent. Yet, it is fanciful to assume that every IC member can take-off without any guidance on the new modus operandi. It calls for a change of mindset, and training can help in reiterating the importance of confidentiality time and again.
- Tools and techniques – Virtual investigations require an updated set of tools and techniques that organizations should equip IC teams with.
- Updated confidentiality agreements – Confidentiality agreements, if any signed by the IC and other stakeholders must be updated to include virtual spaces of investigation. Ensure the NDA’s are signed for every case by all stakeholders involved.
- Clear signaling – Organizations need to provide clear-cut guidelines for conducting investigative processes online.
Given what looms, there is a greater need to ensure that confidentiality is maintained as SH investigations move online. We must ensure that confidentiality does not get sacrificed at the altar of the virtual world.
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