Av Maharaj of Kraft Heinz talks about the role of the legal team in post-pandemic recovery
As one of the largest food-and-beverage manufacturers in the world, the Kraft Heinz Company places people at the center of its business. Its corporate culture emphasizes care and empathy, which are essential as employees navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and gradually return to their physical workplaces.
During Canadian Lawyer’s annual General Counsel Roundtable, Av Maharaj, Kraft Heinz’s chief administrative officer and VP of Legal Corporate Affairs and HR, shared insights into the company’s post-pandemic strategy.
“People need to realize that we have changed the ways of working in 18 months that have taken decades in other cases. And so, we’re trying to follow the guidance of the Canadian government and provincial government, local authorities, but we have to be flexible with our employees. We have to recognize there’s a lot of uncertainty,” said Maharaj. He cited communication as a crucial element in keeping employees informed.
Acknowledging the importance of discussing mental health in the office, Maharaj said, “we needed to demonstrate that we are living in a different environment where mental health is probably one of the most key aspects of our health, of the health of our employees”. To address this need, Kraft Heinz organized a series of seminars focusing on mental health. The leadership team members also shared stories about related experiences and challenges. Furthermore, the company set up a 15-person group called “first responders for mental health,” who had been trained to support colleagues with day-to-day issues.
From a legal perspective, Kraft Heinz’s concerns include privacy, employment, and accommodation. “Ultimately, [the legal department] has a very prominent role to play as we introduce these new benefits and opportunities for employees to find assistance when they need it,” Maharaj said.