COVID-19 - Update Message to Our Customers
The past four months have been challenging for everyone from a personal and professional perspective.
As the situation with COVID-19 is stabilising, we would like to provide updated information on how we have been responding to the COVID-19 crisis and outline some of our insights for the immediate future.
From the 30th of March all of our audits were either conducted remotely or deferred to a future date. We have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from our customers. In fact, we have now conducted over 10,000 remote audits in the UK & IE alone.
From the beginning of July, and in line with the reduction of the Government’s risk level, we have been starting to return to site and conducting some audits at client locations. This is only where it has been necessary as a result of the clients’ business activities or due to scheme requirements (such as IATF 16949). This represents a small minority of audits we are undertaking.
Whilst it is understood that conducting audits remotely has been a necessity, we have also found this method has challenged our preconceptions. We have been able to audit just as thoroughly and more efficiently in many situations and our clients have found the same. We are now working closely with UKAS and our industry colleagues to set out a new direction, bringing together the best of onsite audits and remote audits in a form of “blended audit”. We will continue to keep you up to date on any developments on this, as we are sure it will be of interest to all of our stakeholders.
NQA provides in-depth management systems and auditing skills development training. Our courses (including IRCA approved courses) have durations from half a day to 5 days. Our training business has redesigned its approach to course delivery and moved to a virtual training and assessment approach. This gives the learner the in-classroom experience with tutors and delegates whilst reducing the travel and overnight stays required to attend longer courses. This has been very successful and is available for the rest of 2020 and into 2021 for both NQA and IRCA approved courses.
At the same time as innovating within our current course portfolio, we have developed exciting new courses which help address emergent skills gaps. A great example is our recently launched Remote Internal Audit masterclass. This supports the learner to adapt their internal auditing skills to a remote environment – a real challenge many quality professionals are facing right now.
Supporting Our Customers
We understand that lots of businesses across the UK and IE are under increased pressure. This is why we are offering our customers the option of paying their audit fees over an extended period of time via payment plans and Direct Debit.
We have waived cancellation fees for companies which have had to unavoidably postpone their audits due to the virus impacting their business.
We are proactively working with our clients to temporarily extend their certification, where appropriate, in order to ensure continuity of certification.
We have also been providing great free technical knowledge to support clients and other companies manage the impact of COVID-19 on their management system and business. From legislative updates through to returning to work guidance. This has included over 20 webinars on relevant topics from business continuity to H&S risk assessment.
The only certainty is that the future is uncertain. This is why we remain alert and agile. We are first and foremost committed to ensuring the well-being of all customers, employees, associate partners and interested parties.
We anticipate that the majority of our audits will continue to be conducted remotely until at least the end of 2020. The proportion of on-site activity will likely increase, especially for the clients with aerospace, automotive and higher risk environmental/health and safety certifications.
There are currently many regulatory temporary flexibilities granted as to when and how audits can take place. This is set at international level (by the IAF) and deployed by NQA. As the COVID-19 situation stabilises across Europe, it is likely that these flexibilities will reduce. Therefore customers will need to be prepared to receive assessments when they are normally due in 2021. We do however anticipate that we will be able to offer a more blended audit approach to our clients.
The business threat landscape has been altered due to COVID-19. We are seeing high levels of interest in standards which contribute towards the management of these emergent risks. In particular ISO 22301 – business continuity, this helps companies plan for and mitigate the impact of COVID-19 type events. ISO 27001 – information security is also highly topical given the significant shift towards remote working has heightened the information security risk for many organisations.
As always, NQA are here to help and support you through these challenging times. Please take advantage of our free technical support available and if you have any questions please get in touch.