30 March 2020

This article was written by Ellie Alveyn.

On 20 March 2020, the FCA published guidance for firms on identifying 'key workers'. The update states that a key financial worker is someone whose role 'is necessary for the firm to continue to provide essential daily financial services to consumers, or to ensure the continued functioning of markets' and the regulator expects only a limited number of people to be identified as a key financial worker.

Firms are advised to first identify the services which, if interrupted, would disrupt essential services to the real economy or financial stability. Firms must then identify the individuals who are required to support those functions, including any vital outsource partners, even if those partners are not themselves financial services firms.

The Chief Executive Officer Senior Management Function (SMF1) (or the most relevant member of the senior management team) is responsible for implementing this process and ensuring that only roles that fall within those essential services should be designated as key workers.

The FCA provides a non-exhaustive list of roles that may provide these services, including individuals essential to:

  • the overall management of the firm, for example those captured by the Senior Managers Regime
  • the running of online services and processing
  • the running of branches and providing essential customer services, such as those dealing with consumer queries (including via call centres), client money and client assets and those maintaining access to cash and other payment services
  • the functioning of payments processing and of cash distribution services
  • facilitating corporate and retail lending and administrating the repayment of debt
  • the processing of claims and renewal of insurance
  • the operation of trading venues and other critical elements of market infrastructure
  • risk management, compliance, audit and other functions necessary to ensure the firm meets its customers’ needs and its obligations under the regulatory system
  • providing essential support to allow the functioning of the above roles, such as finance and IT staff.

The regulator encourages firms to consider issuing key workers with a letter signed by someone with appropriate authority to show that they have been designated as a key worker. This should enable the children of key financial workers to attend school.

On 27 March 2020 the FCA published a further update, clarifying the advice regarding work-related travel by employees. The statement makes it clear that firms should be doing everything they can to facilitate their employees working from home and that the number of individuals that are required to attend places of work in person should be only a very small proportion of the total employees required to ensure that firms continue to function as normal. The responsibility for identifying workers that must continue to travel to work also lies with each firm’s designated Senior Manager.

The FCA gave the following examples of roles that would not be expected to go into work or meet in person, and noted that it is expected that the number of exceptions to these examples would be low:

  • financial advisers, as they can offer their services online or by phone
  • staff who can safely and securely trade shares and financial instruments from home
  • business support staff, such as those in IT where they can triage issues from home, unless they are looking after specific equipment or technology
  • claims management companies and those selling non-essential goods and credit.

Burges Salmon are regularly updating their guidance to employers dealing with COVID-19 issues, which is available here.

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