COMMUNICATION AND CONFIDENTIALITY POLICY
This code of conduct details the personal and professional behaviour that is required from all staff when conducting the business of the company. This policy must be read in conjunction with all other relevant policies that govern employment at the company.
This policy covers all individuals working at all levels and grades, including managers, officers, directors, employees, consultants, contractors, trainees, homeworkers, part-time and fixed-term employees, casual staff and volunteers (collectively referred to as staff or employees)
All staff are responsible for their own compliance with this policy and for ensuring that it is consistently applied. All staff must comply with this policy at all times to protect the reputation of our company and our employees. All staff should ensure that they take the time to read and understand their roles and responsibilities in respect of it. Any employee who breaches the above requirements will be subject to discipline in terms of the company’s Disciplinary Policy which may result in dismissal. Any breach of this policy should be reported to the relevant Manager
THE FIRM WILL TREAT MATTERS OF NON-COMPLIANCE VERY SERIOUSLY. NON-COMPLIANCE BY DIRECTORS OR EMPLOYEES WILL RESULT IN SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND/OR APPROVED PERSONS BEING HELD RESPONSIBLE BY THE APPROPRIATE REGULATOR.
REVIEW OF THIS POLICY
The policy shall be reviewed annually to ensure that it meets legal requirements and reflects best practice. The customer service policy will be reviewed during the annual strategic meeting. All staff are to be trained in respect of this policy and understand their roles and responsibilities in respect of it.
Our firm is very careful to ensure that we have proper communication channels, and encourage openness and honesty, whilst still respecting the confidentiality of the Firm’s, as well as all our customer and persons’ personal information
All persons need to be aware that there is national legislation that covers this area such as the Protection of Personal Information Act, the Consumer Protection Act, the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act)
COMMUNICATION WITH REGULATORS, OTHER THIRD PARTIES AND THE MEDIA
Requests from regulators or law enforcement bodies
Regulators must be dealt with professionally, promptly and in a centrally co-ordinated manner.
This policy describes procedures to follow when receiving requests for information from regulators, law enforcement bodies and third parties. It aims at ensuring that customer confidentiality is maintained whilst still complying with all applicable legislation and protecting our business reputation.
This includes requests from:
- Financial Services Board
- South African Reserve Bank
- South African Police
- South African Revenue Services
- Hawks, other external parties e.g. attorneys, subpoenas, requests in terms of any law such as Promotion of Access to Information Act etc.
To ensure that the firm complies with the applicable legislation and maintains customer confidentiality, there will be a sole liaison between external parties and the firm. The details of this person are to be found in the Register of Roles
The following procedure must be followed when requests for information from any of the above parties are received:
- Immediately direct the request to the nominated representative, within 24 hours of the request being received;
- S/He will assess the request and ensure that all details are applicable with the nominated legislation;
- S/He will confirm and verify details and authority of the requester;
- S/He will consult with the required business units within the firm;
- S/He will compile the required information;
- S/He will submit the information to the requester;
- The Information dealing with the request will be captured on the firm’s database.
EXTERNAL (MEDIA) COMMUNICATIONS POLICY
Communication with the press must be handled in a professional and co-ordinated manner and ensure that the firm’s position is fully explained and as accurately reported as possible.
No employees are allowed to talk to the press about matters relating to the firm, or respond to enquiries from journalists, without the prior approval of the firm’s CEO unless they are on the approved list of spokespeople. Never give information to the press or media. There is always a spokesperson for the organisation that will be designated as the person to speak with them.
Politely decline any requests and refer the person to a supervisor.
Appointed spokespeople must only discuss subjects within their own expertise. Management must confirm the approved spokespeople, reflected in the Register of Roles.
Under no circumstances should employees discuss with the media any of the following matters:
- The affairs of any customer
- Whether or not a particular customer has engaged the firm, unless this engagement has already been publicly announced or customer consent has been obtained
- The affairs or practices of the firm
- Pending or possible litigation involving the firm
- Current or former firm employees
RELEASE OF INFORMATION
Normal requests in the course of business (For example: requests for customer or policy information)
Before releasing any information to auditors, accountants or any other third party, whether verbally or in writing, you must ensure that you are entitled to release such information and obtain the client’s or client’s authorised signatory’s approval. The onus of ensuring that you know your client/ talking to your customer or/and obtaining written authorisation rests with the Firm. Unless you identify beyond doubt the person’s voice, you may not release any customer or policy information telephonically.
Any request other than made in the normal course of business must be referred to Compliance or the appointed person nominated in the Register of Roles. The same applies if you are in doubt as to the nature of the request or as to the person requesting the information.
- The only time transfer of information is appropriate over the telephone is between authorised persons. Authorised persons will give their details to verify their identity and obtain verification of the person to whom they are speaking.
- When answering the phone, don’t ever give out any information unless you are authorised to do so, and only after you are sure of the person’s identity and authorisation to receive this information. If this is not forthcoming, refer the enquiry immediately to a supervisor, manager or authorised person.
- If you are ever in any doubt as to the caller’s identity, or suspect that something is not right, inform a supervisor immediately and do not comply with any requests from the caller.
- Ensure full notes/ records are kept of all calls
PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY AND COMMUNICATION GUIDELINES
Individuals are personally responsible for the safe-keeping and appropriate restriction of information which flows to them during the course of their employment. Managers in particular must act with due diligence when disseminating reports and other information on a “need to know” basis and must undertake the periodic destruction of obsolete or outdated records.
Managers are responsible to ensure that a properly designated and maintained system of records is implemented and must regularly review the system integrity and confidentiality in order to maintain the standards required by this confidentiality policy.
The business’ working relationships with many outside consultants, suppliers, vendors and other stakeholders demands a large measure of disclosure of information. Discretion must be exercised in terms of the type and frequency of the information that is being shared. Consultants, in particular, are appropriately treated as business “partners” in this regard and it is incumbent on the
hiring manager to ensure that all such consultants sign a confidentiality agreement prior to embarking on the project for which they are hired.
All persons, contractors and other personnel employed by/ mandated by the business are required to treat all customer and business information with the utmost confidentiality. Persons with access
to confidential, private or sensitive information are not to divulge this information with any other persons unless authorised to do so.
If you are ever asked to divulge confidential information about a customer by a person who has no authority to request this, please report the matter to your supervisor immediately.
If you ever hear an employee/contractor etc. discussing information of a confidential and/or private nature in an inappropriate way (eg, chatting to a colleague in the office or lunch room, telling friends in a social setting), you must report the matter to your supervisor/KI immediately.
The easiest way to follow this policy is to remember one simple rule: NEVER give out confidential and/or private information about a customer unless it’s to an authorised person. This means not even to family members – we have no way of knowing a person’s family situation, and that person has the right to withhold private information from his/her family members.
The business takes the confidentiality and privacy of our customers very seriously, and will not hesitate to take disciplinary action against any persons that are in breach of this policy.
All employees/ contractors/ mandatories must have a confidentiality clause inserted into their contracts of appointment. Irrespective of whether such a clause is included in any contract, the provisions of this policy apply mutatis mutandis and form part of the terms and conditions of appointment.
The appointed person acknowledges that in the course of rendering services in terms of this Agreement he will acquire or receive information of a confidential nature, including, but not limited to information relating to the business of the Employer/Mandator, Product suppliers, or customers.
The following is not permitted (during the course of appointment, or at any time afterwards). No person may:
- use or disclose or allow third parties to use or disclose any confidential information
- be entitled to information regarding a customer’s portfolio without the customer’s written consent
- if requested, the appointee must provide the firm with written proof of the customer’s consent immediately when requested to do so
- the provisions of this section survive the termination of the appointment
Any unauthorised disclosure of any information concerning:
The firm’s results, methods, procedures, names and structural arrangement with suppliers or customers, ideas, research, software and hardware in use in computer operations and applications, any relevant data which is either being used or will be used by the firm, as well as any other matter or information which is not readily available in the ordinary course of business to a competitor or potential competitor of the firm, will constitute a breach of contract, unless you are required by law to disclose such knowledge.
No person may at any time either during or after this appointment, divulge or disclose any matters connected with this appointment (except those matters which are, or by their nature shall be, matters in the public domain) to any persons or entity without the consent in writing of the firm
Any breach of the above is a compromise of the honesty and integrity of the person in question and appropriate action will be taken by the firm in any such instance
RAMIFICATIONS OF BREACHES OF THE CONFIDENTIALITY OF RECORDS
In a situation of this policy being breached, a customer can take legal action against the person as well as the entity responsible. Our business owes a duty of care to the customer to prevent any “damage” to the client.
To avoid a successful claim by the client, we must be able to prove that we have steps in place to prevent such a breach taking place. These steps are:
- Recruitment and selection of persons/mandatories or contractors, incorporating background checks
- Induction training of new persons on confidentiality and privacy and record keeping policy and procedures.
- Annual training, reinforcing our policies and informing persons of any changes to policies.
- Correct audited procedures for record keeping.
- Security systems in place to monitor and record computer access to information.
- Security systems in place to regulate level of access to information for different persons.
- Security systems in place to prevent data breach
- The police are called in if there appears to be any breach.
If our policy and procedure regarding confidentiality of customer information is not followed, the individual person will be liable to disciplinary action, which may lead to dismissal, debarment or lawsuits.
ALL persons, mandatories and contractors are required to sign a confidentiality agreement when they commence employment or mandate. This is a legally binding document that clearly states your obligation to treat all customer information in a confidential manner.
- Privacy of the individual’s details must be maintained at all times.
- Personal information that needs to remain confidential includes the age, gender, address, ID, date of birth, financial information, or any other information of a personal nature of the individual.
- Other topics that also need to remain private are details of health issues, family information. Any other information of a personal or sensitive nature should be discussed only with the appropriate people when and where others will not overhear the conversation.
- Persons sometimes will discuss details of a person in the lift, in the corridor or in the tearoom; this is a policy breach.
ACCESS TO RECORDS
Records may be paper or computer based, stored on discs or CDs or on smart devices. Records have legal, administrative and cultural constraints on their storage and disposal.
- Persons do not all require the same level of access to information. The level of access required is determined by the person’s role.
- Security access may be issued whilst the person is working on a particular job, and then withdrawn if the level of access required changes.
- Persons require ID access or an electronic door pass to access data.
- Computer access and content is monitored and restricted to ensure that customer confidentiality is maintained
- No unauthorised copies of any information may be held or made and no unauthorised information may be transferred onto a personal device (cell phone, iPad, laptop)
- Any personal information or confidential information which is legitimately held on e.g. A memory stick, must be password protected and encrypted
- Documents need to remain private and confidential, and must at all times be stored in a securely locked cabinet for access by authorised personnel only.
- Documents are not to be left where members of the general public, or any other unauthorised person may access them as the information within them could be taken out of context or made public.
- Check with, and obtain the written consent from a person prior to allowing family members to access documents. There may be information that the customer does not wish their family, friends or others to know.
- Customers are able to access their own information once their identity has been verified.
Records may not be transferred from one organisation to another without written management approval. Not all organisations have reciprocal privacy agreements, so care needs to be taken and the correct channels followed to ensure that any sensitive or confidential information is not passed over to someone that may not treat the information in the same confidential manner as your organisation.
COMPUTER AND INTERNET CONFIDENTIALITY
- Within an organisation there will be information that is sensitive and confidential in nature stored on the computer network.
- All computer equipment must be password protected, and no passwords may be shared or disclosed with any other persons
- At no time are persons to allow access for visitors to view computer-based information. Information that is printed out must be filed in the appropriate place according to the firm’s protocols.
- Any information that is to be discarded must be thrown into the locked bins for shredding prior to being discarded.
- All information stored electronically must be permanently destroyed, with no possibility of data recovery, when destroyed
- All information stored electronically which is no longer required for its purpose must be removed and either archived or destroyed according to the recordkeeping policy.