The news over the weekend suddenly took a serious and, for many, scary turn over the weekend with the prospect of a pandemic flu (known right now as Swine Flu) appearing more likely than it has been since the SARS outbreak several years back.
For employers, flu preparedness has been something that has been talked about for many years. But I’m taking a guess that for many employers, this was always something that they would get around to later.
So, regardless of whether this swine flu hysteria is for real or not (and note that no Connecticut cases have been confirmed), employers can and should take the time now to educate themselves about the resources out there and develop a contingency plan to adapt their business to the possibility of a flu epidemic for the weeks and months to come.
The government, fortunately, has been preparing for this possibility and there are already existing websites for employers to review.
The best is from the Centers for Disease Control directly, which has a "Workplace Planning" page for employers addressing pandemic flu. I highly recommend it.
Among the resources available on that site:
- A Business Pandemic Influenza Planning Checklist (which discusses policies to implement during a pandemic and how to communicate effectively with your employees);
- An FAQ on Frequent Workplace Questions;
- A Summary of What to Expect During a Flu Pandemic.
For Connecticut employers, the Department of Public Health has also put out guidance for employers on Pandemic Flu Preparedness. There is also a handout that you can distribute to your employees that is bilingual. Frankly, it can’t hurt to distribute it this week to start educating your workforce about this.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also has a list of questions and issues that employers should be considering now about the pandemic flu. Among the suggestions:
- Identify your company’s essential functions, which might include accounting, payroll, and information technology, and the individuals who perform them. Cross-train employees to perform essential functions to ensure resiliency.
- Plan for interruptions of essential governmental services like sanitation, water, power,
and transportation, or disruptions to the food supply. For example, your employees
might need back-up plans for car pools in case mass transit is interrupted.
- Update sick leave and family and medical leave policies and communicate with employees about the importance of staying away from the workplace if they become ill.
A lot of what’s going to happen over the next few weeks and months is still unknown right now. Add a deep recession to the mix and you don’t need a crystal ball to know that things could get tricky fairly quickly.
In the upcoming days and weeks, I’ll continue to update this blog with more information. For now, education and preparation are crucial to ensuring that your business can function during what may be a tough time ahead.
(Photo Copyright Daniel A. Schwartz 2009 – at Vermont State Fair)