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Global Solutions Episode 1: COVID-19 and Returning to the Workplace—Is There an App for That?

What role can mobile technology play in a global employer’s return-to-workplace strategy?  Employers exploring mobile apps to comply with new safety directives (for example, to facilitate contact tracing, symptom certification, or entry/exit logging) may wonder about how to implement them across operations globally—especially since the legal conditions on these apps vary greatly from country to country.

Data-privacy laws drive risk, and observing key fundamental principles like articulating a valid reason for collecting and using data and ensuring data minimization go a long way in achieving global compliance. Employers cannot contract away their privacy obligations to a third party, making it crucial to raise discussions about data protection and cross-border issues with any developer upfront—and equally important to document those discussions carefully. Topics to address include storage, cross-border data transfer, retention periods, access restrictions, and the ability to tweak and translate the content locally as needed.

Apps can cause issues too. Employees may refuse to download software onto their personal devices, and in some countries the employer can do very little to enforce employer policies requiring employees to do so. Transparent and clear messaging about privacy, and easy-to-use technology that offers obvious convenience to the employee, can encourage their use. Another approach is designing and messaging the app for anyone who enters the relevant workplace where the only consequence is denial of entry or having to use a less convenient method.

An increasing number of governments have implemented or announced COVID-19 apps, and the list is growing. The apps can have direct or indirect implications on employers. Our recent podcast on the topic discusses some of these apps.

© 2020, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume X, Number 169


About this Author

Bonnie Puckett, Ogletree Deakins Law Firm, Atlanta, Labor and Employment Litigation Attorney

Bonnie Puckett leads the firm’s Asia-Pacific practice and offers global companies business-practical cross-border guidance on all aspects of managing a global and internationally-mobile workforce, reconciling complex issues of multiple and conflicting laws and managing risk.  Her regional focus spans Asia and beyond, with specialized expertise in countries such as China, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Australia, Israel, and the UAE, as well as experience with matters in Europe and the Americas.  Bonnie’s practice covers data privacy, employee mobility and expatriate strategy,...