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SAMRA STATEMENT ON THE RESEARCH INDUSTRY AND COVID-19


The Research Industry and Covid-19

As we find ourselves in this unprecedented time in our history caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many questions arise as to how we should be conducting our business. At the time of preparing SAMRA’s input on Covid-19 for this statement, the nation was informed of the move from level 5 to level 4 lockdown from 1 May onwards.

Since the research industry falls within the financial and business services – other professional services sector, we can start limited operations where a third of the staff may work from the office during the level 4 stage. It is important to note that it is the responsibility of the research company to take accountability and apply discretion in terms of when they feel safe and confident to return to the office. It is important to note that whilst the research industry is classified under financial and business services – other professional services, we are also an industry that can still work remotely from home. SAMRA strongly recommends that staff work remotely from home as far as possible, until such time where staff’s return can be phased in, starting with a third of staff depending on the COVID-19 infections and death toll – and updates by the President.

An essential aspect of returning to the office is how to manage the different research methodologies within the research industry. It is recommended that online and CATI (telephonic) research methodologies be prioritised as opposed to the face-to-face (CAPI) research methodologies. At this point, with the current level 4 restrictions, face-to-face CAPI methodology is not allowed and SAMRA therefore recommends waiting for level 2 implementation in this regard. Please note that SAMRA can only guide the industry on how to manage research practice during COVID-19 lockdown. Compliance is enforced by government.

These are desperate financial times for most companies in our industry, but we all have to work together to prioritise the health and safety of employers, employees (staff, interviewers, etc) as well as those of consumers/respondents. In addition, research companies should maintain and adhere to social distancing and personal hygiene for as long as they can.

We are very aware that our industry is faced with difficult and uncertain times, but we remain committed as we go through this challenging time together. Now more than ever our industry is instrumental in providing understanding and insight on how the attitudes and behaviours of decision-makers are being changed by the Covid-19 outbreak.

We urge all members to work together and to act responsibly in these difficult times. Let us use this opportunity to share best practices and creative solutions. So, please inform us if you are doing any research related to Covid-19 and/or its impact or have found ways to better utilize online research activities, and we will gladly share in our next newsletter.

The SAMRA Ethics Committee support the above as follows:

According to our opinion research falls under Financial and business services – Other professional services:

  1. under Level Four “Other professional services may operate only where work-from-home is not possible, and only to support other Level Four services”, and
  2. under Level Three “Other professional services may operate only where work-from-home is not possible, and only to support other Level Three services”

The Risk Adjusted Strategy Regulations as published in the Government Gazette Vol. 658, 29 April 2020, No. 43258 applies. Please click link below for the document:

https://www.samra.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Risk-Adjusted-Strategy-Regulations-Gazetted-COGTA_compressed_29-April-2020.pdf

We are therefore, of the opinion that the following applies:

Level Five

1.       Work from home only

Levels Three and Four

1.       Work from home

2.       If not possible to work from home, work at the office with all precautions taken including observance of guidelines for social distancing, sanitation and hygiene, and use of appropriate personal protective equipment, like cloth face masks, but only on work that is essential for other Level Four/Three services (as deemed by the Level Four/Three service providers)

3.       No face-to-face data collection or data collection in public spaces

Level Two

1.       Work from home

2.       If not possible to work from home, work at the office with all precautions taken including observance of guidelines for social distancing, sanitation and hygiene, and use of appropriate personal protective equipment, like cloth face masks, but only on work that is essential for other Level Two services (as deemed by the Level Two service providers)

  • Face-to-face data collection and data collection in public spaces allowed with all precautions taken including observance of guidelines for social distancing, sanitation and hygiene, and use of appropriate personal protective equipment, like cloth face masks

Level One

1.       All activities can resume

It is important that when the industry returns to the workplace that the COVID-19 Direction on Health and Safety in the Workplace as published in the Government Gazette Vol. 658, 29 April 2020, No. 43257 be followed. Please click link below for the document:

https://www.samra.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/COVID-19-Direction-on-Health-and-Safety-in-the-Workplace-43257_29-04_Labour.pdf

The WHO also published valuable advice on preparing the workplace – which can be found at: https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/getting-workplace-ready-for-covid-19.pdf.

Please find below resources provided by ESOMAR that you may find useful:

https://www.esomar.org/what-we-do/news/23/news/263/COVID-19-Our-commitment-to-continued-support

https://www.esomar.org/uploads/public/knowledge-and-standards/documents/ESOMAR-Management-of-Covid-19-Measures.pdf

https://www.esomar.org/uploads/public/knowledge-and-standards/documents/ESOMAR_Statement_Impact-of-social-distancing-protocols-on-conducting-researchduring-COVID-19-crisis.pdf

Disclaimer: It is important to note that SAMRA can only guide the research industry in this situation based on what is currently known about Covid-19 and in support of our government’s management of the pandemic. It remains the responsibility of the individual business to adhere to the regulations pertaining to the lockdown (and staging process) as determined by the government. Unfortunately, SAMRA cannot entertain requests to relax the rules and make exceptions. SAMRA’s guidance and its recommendations reflect the best available information at the time the guidance was prepared. SAMRA does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of its guidance and assumes no responsibility for any errors or omissions.

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