By Jennifer Farnsworth
Part of owning a small business is having a good understanding of the laws that effect it over time. In recent years, understanding codes and protocols is more important than ever.
Law firms and human resource consulting agencies can be important resources to help small business owners. They can even ultimately protect their livelihood.
Martin A. Miranda, senior counsel at Tully Rinckey PLLC, said his firm has seen an increase in cybersecurity concerns, as well as pandemic-related issues faced by small businesses.
“Due to the pandemic small businesses have relied more on their online business platforms. As more employees work from home, there has also been a significant increase in cyber attacks aimed at small businesses,” he said.
“Hackers may find small businesses particularly vulnerable for lacking adequate technology infrastructure and data security expertise.”
Miranda said to compound problems, networks outside of the workplace may not possess sufficient security measures to prevent cyber attacks, which have become increasingly more sophisticated and targeted.
Common methods of cyber attacks include phishing schemes, social engineering, malware, ransomware and password hacking, said Miranda.
He has also seen an increase in small businesses reaching out on how to best follow COVID protocols, a completely new area for small business owners to have to navigate.
“I receive many questions regarding how small businesses can maintain a safe work environment for their employees as COVID protocols evolve in response to the multiple variants. Implementing these protocols can be burdensome for a small business and enforcing the protocols can often lead to differences of opinion among employees,” said Miranda.
Debra J. M. Best, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, of Deb Best Practices, has seen similar concerns at her human resources consulting practice. She has also seen an increase in COVID concerns for small businesses owners.
“For small businesses who have not ordinarily been required to implement and document safety protocols, COVID-19 compliance and safety protocols are like OSHA on steroids. Almost all of the COVID-19 protocols are how employees should conduct themselves safely and what employers are required to do to keep employees safe, consequently the overlap with HR work,” said Best.
Miranda said other concerns have centered around employees working remotely. He said with evolving COVID protocols, it can be challenging for small businesses to ensure their employees remain safe and productive, all while feeling connected with their colleagues.
“School and daycare closures due to a COVID exposure have created an increased strain on employees trying to balance their employment obligations with family life and personal time,” said Miranda.
Overall, Miranda said privacy issues remain a top concern for small business owners.
“Small businesses may not fully appreciate their vulnerability to data privacy breaches until it’s too late. Employees working while quarantined or in isolation can lead to inconsistent quality of service and general slowdown of services due to a decrease in available workforce. In light of these challenges, a small business can best prepare for commercial disruptions by staying up to date about the shifting landscape of cyberattacks and improving their communication concerning policies designed to protect employees from COVID outbreak,” said Miranda.
Best said the best advice she can give to small business owners is to keep the lines of communication open.
“Communication, communication, communication, especially effective face-to-face communication and clear follow up written communication to summarize the face-to-face communication. Employers can never communicate enough, it takes the average adult 5 times to integrate new information and new concepts,” said Best.
She also recommends establishing a relationship with an employer-side labor lawyer who specializes in NYS and federal employment law and regulation.
“This is such a large and complex area of the law, a general practice lawyer generally does not have the resources and the required knowledge base. Establishing that relationship when an employment compliance issue arises can be needlessly stressful,” said Best.