Even stronger commitment of associates during the pandemic

  • The health and safety of our associates and uninterrupted supply of medicines for patients at home and worldwide, are our primary concern
  • More than 1,700 associates are working from home – crucial role of business digitization
  • With measures put in place for the health and safety of the associates, Novartis fulfils its responsibility to them and strengthens its role as the most reputable employer in Slovenia
10. 4. 2020

At Novartis, a smooth manufacture of vital medicines for patients at home and worldwide is the top priority. A timely and quality supply of Slovenian and global markets with generic and originator medicines is of key importance for protecting health and improving and extending people’s lives. All our associates play an indispensable role in enabling this, and our responsibility to them is our guideline. Already in early March, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we began putting in place a number of measures to protect the health of our associates and thereby ensuring business continuity.

In order to protect the health of our associates who continue to come daily to work in production and the laboratories, we have introduced a number of measures to prevent the spread of infection. For all other associates we have recommended that they work from home from March 11 onwards. From Monday, March 16, working from home is obligatory for all associates of Novartis in Slovenia who have laptops. Moreover, on March 11 the field force colleagues temporarily suspended their field-based activities. Today, more than one third of all Novartis associates in Slovenia are working from home.

»Immediately after the initiation of the first measures, when Novartis in Slovenia joined its forces, two factors proved to be crucial to successfully confront the crisis situation: a clear mission and a strong culture. The response from our associates was overwhelming, almost a third of all associates started to work from home practically overnight. Those associates who continue their daily work in production and the laboratories have shown an extremely high level of commitment, and in a number of units, a record output was achieved during this time. Some other associates also come to physically help in production. We are all extremely proud to work in a company that not only took care of its associates with an exceptional degree of responsibility but was also very quick to donate funds and protective equipment to organizations that are »in the front lines« in the fight against the pandemic. We will come out of this crisis even stronger,« concludes Robert Ljoljo, Novartis Country President Slovenia.

We would like to emphasize the great support that we are receiving through exemplary cooperation with national and local authorities in the implementation of a number of these measures, which helps us ensure smooth business operation.

Digitization of business operations enabled the associates to quickly resume their regular work 

Novartis started introducing and promoting flexible forms of work many years ago as part of its diversity and inclusion efforts. In Slovenia, some forms of flexible work were introduced a few years ago, and we have been encouraging them increasingly more recently. We are aware that flexible forms of work are important to meet the needs of our employees and our business needs in the increasingly competitive global market. 

Enabling working from home is a fact that differentiates us from many other companies. During the coronavirus epidemic, it became even more evident how essential digitization is and how important it is that Novartis has been systematically investing in it, both globally and in Slovenia, for many years. As we are continuously upgrading the required infrastructure and training of our associates, we managed to achieve that in the current situation and practically overnight more than 1,700 associates can work from home.

Preventing the spread of the new coronavirus

  • Already with the occurrence of the first cases in Italy, we prepared the guidelines for hand and cough hygiene and emphasized the importance of limiting contacts with other people, especially if they show signs of infection. 
  • We provided our associates with protective face masks, gloves for personal use and a substantial amount of disinfectant that our associates produced themselves. We also taught them how to use face masks and other protective equipment properly and organized a safe collection of used protective equipment.
  • We limited business travel and advised against personal travel. 
  • On arrival, we measure body temperature of all visitors and suppliers who come to our business and production sites. All business meetings are carried out in a virtual environment using web tools that enable distance meetings.
  • We enabled working from home to those associates who can efficiently carry out they work tasks from home.
  • In the absence of public transport, some associates must use their own means of transport. In such cases, the reimbursement of transport costs to and from work is based on the allowance per kilometre covered and not the cost of a monthly public transport pass.
  • In order to ensure the optimal hygiene conditions, we have appropriately organized eating arrangements for our associates who go to work in production and laboratories. We have also rearranged the tables and chairs to limit the number of people in dining rooms, ensuring a safe distance, and provided hand sanitizers and paper towels on tables.

Taking care of the wellbeing of our associates

It is perfectly understandable that the associates experience feelings of anxiety and frustration in these difficult times. 

  • In addition to guidance on how to manage stress and take care of psychological fitness, we have also provided free psychosocial help offered by a therapist and counsellor. 
  • For those who work from home, we have prepared a range of practical advice how to best adapt to the new working circumstances, including advice on healthy lifestyle.
  • For those associates who, due to the nature of their work or health or other important reasons, need a larger screen for working from home, we have made it possible to rent company screens.
  • In addition to regular updating about measures adopted at the company level, we also try to motivate and encourage the associates with regular addresses by the company’s leadership team. On Thursday, April 2, we organised a virtual meeting with all leaders of Novartis in Slovenia (more than 500), where the representatives of the company’s leadership presented the key information and were then available for questions and answers. The meeting was extremely well received.
  • We are also providing our associates and their family members and friends the opportunity for education and personal development by offering a rich range of virtual tools including Tignum X, Khan Academy and Coursera, that includes programs of certified world leading universities such as Yale, Stanford and Duke.

Support for the parents

When planning business continuity, we paid special attention to those associates who are, during the closure of nurseries, schools and day care centres for the elderly, significantly more involved in the educational process of their children or dependent relatives.

  • Therefore, we organize our work by using different time schedules and work arrangements in order to be able to adapt as much as possible to the needs of the employees and at the same time enable the manufacture of essential medicines that are crucial for saving the lives of our patientsPriority is given to those associates, who live alone with a child and those without any options to secure childcare by an immediate family member.
  • Within the Civil Protection service activities we have arranged for our associates organized childcare in the municipalities of Ljubljana, Mengeš, Prevalje and Lendava that is provided individually for a respective family at the associate’s home and is carried out by trained volunteer nursery carers and primary school teachers. The first feedback received has been very positive.
  • Novartis has offered a global commitment of 12 calendar days paid leave for associates in cases where it is absolutely not possible for an associate to work from home (for part or all of their working day) or the government measures do not allow them to perform their responsibilities as a caregiver (to dependent relatives/children during the closure of schools, nurseries, day care centres etc.).

Staying connected

  • We provided the associates with access to internal Novartis resources also via private mobile telephone. This allows them to easily access Novartis information, stay updated and connected. We have also prepared a mass emergency notification tool.
  • Despite the coronavirus epidemic, we continue to recruit candidates for open job positions, using various virtual tools to contact them. All candidates who have already undergone a medical examination and signed a contract will join us following the routine procedure and are subject to the same safety measures as any other regularly employed associate.

Novartis commitment and response to COVID-19

Novartis is deeply dedicated to the global effort to combat COVID-19 and doing our part to support the stability of global healthcare systems. We announced a broad set of measures including the creation of a global fund of USD 20 million to support communities around the world impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Novartis also has committed 130 million doses of hydroxychloroquine to support pandemic response. In addition, Novartis joined two key cross-industry research initiatives, the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, coordinated by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome, and Mastercard, as well as a COVID-19 directed partnership organized by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI). Novartis is separately supporting COVID-19 related clinical investigations of several Novartis medicines. To support access, the Novartis generics and biosimilars division Sandoz became the first company to commit to keeping stable prices for a basket of essential medicines that may help in the treatment of COVID-19. 

Novartis in Slovenia provided the Slovenian Red Cross and the Slovenian Association of Friends of Youth USD 500,000 from the Novartis’ Global Fund to support their efforts to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to the financial donation, we have providedpersonal protective equipment and more than 4,000 litres of disinfectant to more than 20 health care centres, hospitals, homes for the elderly and local communities across Slovenia up to now. 

More information about the Novartis response to COVID-19 is available on Novartis.com/coronavirus; more information about adopted measures and support in Slovenia can be found at https://www.lek.si/sl/o-nas/za-medije/covid-19/.

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Novartis is the leading provider of medicines in Slovenia, where Lek, Novartis Pharma Services and Sandoz, operate. Together we are building and maintaining the reputation of a dynamic, ethical, and trusted pharmaceutical company. Lek develops, manufactures, and markets effective, safe, and high quality medicines and active pharmaceutical ingredients. With our knowledge, quality, and experience we have gained an important role in Novartis' organizational structure, especially in the Novartis Technical Operations, Global Drug Development, Novartis Business Services, and the generic division Sandoz. We are the leading Sandoz development center, and one of the key development sites for technologically complex projects. We invest a great deal in the development, education, and training of our employees. Over the last eight years, the company has created more than 2,700 jobs, making us one of the biggest employers in Slovenia. Novartis invested in Slovenia more than EUR 2.5 billion since 2003. 

About Sandoz
Sandoz, a Novartis division, is a global leader in generic pharmaceuticals and biosimilars. Our purpose is to pioneer access for patients by developing and commercializing novel, affordable approaches that address unmet medical needs. Our ambition is to be the world’s leading and most valued generics company. Our broad portfolio of high-quality medicines, covering all major therapeutic areas, accounted for 2019 sales of USD 9.7 billion. Sandoz is headquartered in Holzkirchen, in Germany’s Greater Munich area.

Sandoz is on Twitter. Sign up to follow @SandozGlobal at http://twitter.com/Sandoz_Global.

About Novartis
Novartis is reimagining medicine to improve and extend people’s lives. As a leading global medicines company, we use innovative science and digital technologies to create transformative treatments in areas of great medical need. In our quest to find new medicines, we consistently rank among the world’s top companies investing in research and development. Novartis products reach more than 800 million people globally and we are finding innovative ways to expand access to our latest treatments. About 109,000 people of more than 145 nationalities work at Novartis around the world. Find out more at www.novartis.com. 

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This press release contains statements and conclusions based on projections of Lek’s future business operations. These estimates are derived from the best information currently available. In case these forecasts prove unreliable, the actual results could prove different from those projected.

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For additional information contact:
Katarina Klemenc
Corporate Communications 
Lek Pharmaceuticals d. d.
Phone: +386 1 580 22 43
Fax: +386 1 580 24 32