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Scottish Resilience SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT - Advice for businesses about Swine Flu 29 April 2009 Scottish Government is engaging closely with business organisations and will continue to keep you informed of developments for the duration of the outbreak. Our focus remains on ensuring our key sectors and indeed all businesses are fully prepared to deal with the impacts of any outbreak. The principle risk to the continuity of critical business functions in a pandemic is the shortage of staff both within organisations and in suppliers and subcontractors. Your Business To reduce the impact of these potential problems, you will need to ensure that you have: identified critical activities that must be maintained and, by implication, what work you could defer identified the resources you need to deliver these, particularly staff considered both the number of staff and which specialist skills, knowledge or authority are required made available the information required by those staff who might be required to deputise for others put in place arrangements so you can implement changes in work priorities and reassign resources, in order to maintain critical activities put in place arrangements to maintain good communications with your staff, customers and suppliers Your suppliers You should consider the effect of staff absences on the suppliers and subcontractors on which you depend. Staff absences in suppliers may affect the services they are able to provide and the availability of some raw materials. Your staff - absences To prevent spreading illness amongst your workforce, staff who think they may have influenza should go home rather than trying to continue working. Staff should stay at home until they are completely well and follow advice from NHS24 which is available at http://www.nhs24.com/content/default.asp. Scottish Resilience Infection control You should also review advice from Health and Safety Executive concerning infection control measures in the workplace. This is available at http://www.hse.gov.uk/biosafety/diseases/pandflu.htm Additional information Useful links World Health Organisation - http://www.who.int/en/ Department of Health - http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/index.htm Scottish Government - http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Home Foreign & Commonwealth Office - http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travelling-and-living-overseas/travel-advice-by-country/north-central- america/mexico Department for Business Enterprise & Regulatory Reform - http://www.berr.gov.uk/whatwedo/sectors/infosec/infosecadvice/continuitymanagement/page33396.html UK Financial Sector Continuity - http://www.fsc.gov.uk/section.asp?catid=14&docid=2417 Influenza virus Influenza is an acute infectious viral illness that spreads rapidly from person to person when in close contact. Influenza is a respiratory illness with a wide range of symptoms characterised by rapid onset of illness, fever, cough, headache, sore throat, and aching muscles and joints. The typical incubation period for non-pandemic influenza (the time between catching influenza and showing symptoms) is one to four days, with an average of two to three days. People are most infectious soon after they develop symptoms though they can continue to shed virus, for example in coughs and sneezes, for typically up to five days (seven days in children). Influenza is one of the most difficult infectious diseases to control because the virus spreads rapidly and easily from person to person. This is through two routes, direct and indirect: Direct: via droplets expelled from infected individuals (during talking, sneezing and coughing), which land on the mucous membranes where they enter the body and cause disease. Indirect: via hands touching contaminated surfaces or equipment and then touching the nose, mouth or eyes. Studies suggest that influenza viruses may survive for some time on various surfaces, surviving longer on hard non-porous surfaces than on soft porous materials. Studies have shown that careful hand hygiene, commercially available alcohol-based hand disinfectant (i.e. alcohol hand gel) and domestic cleaning products can easily deactivate the virus. The best way to protect yourself and others from the virus is to: stay at home if you are ill Scottish Resilience cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, using a single use tissue disposing of dirty tissues promptly and carefully maintaining good basic hygiene, for example washing hands frequently with soap and water to reduce the spread of the virus from your hands to face or to other people cleaning hard surfaces (e.g. door handles) frequently using a normal cleaning product making sure your children follow this advice More information about general business continuity is available at: http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Governmentcitizensandrights/Dealingwithemergenci es/Preparingforemergencies/DG_175927 Scottish Resilience FROM PERSONNEL TODAY Swine flu: Be prepared 1 A sensible starting place would be to consider the basic requirements of the business without which it will not be able to function. Particular regard should be paid to the minimum number of employees required to run each division or department. As part of this exercise, it would be useful to compile a list of the transferable skills of each staff member, and consider which staff could be easily retrained or redeployed in the event of a heavily depleted workforce. 2 Throughout the duration of a pandemic, it is likely that your workforce will be depleted. In these circumstances, it is important to ensure that appropriate training is given to any remaining workers who may be required to carry out unfamiliar tasks. You should also be prepared for the possibility of hiring and training additional temporary staff to supplement departments where staff numbers have fallen below the minimum level required. Remember that young workers and pregnant workers are particular categories of employee to be borne in mind in any temporary reorganisation, and should not be substituted into inappropriate work 3 Advise your staff to stay at home if they are sick, and be prepared for the possibility that it will become harder for employees to attend work. For example, travel restrictions may be put in place, or public transport may be suspended. Employers should consider using (or indeed investing in) technology such as remote access via broadband or satellite connections, to enable employees to work from home. Bear in mind, however, that imposing travel bans or quarantines to protect employees from a swine flu pandemic could land HR in serious legal trouble as they would ignore privacy and employment law. 4 Allowing employees to work more flexible hours may also enable them to undertake their obligations to care for sick relatives, or for children whose schools have closed, without having to stop work completely. If you have employees who can safely work from home then this should be identified and encouraged. Use technology to keep lines of communication open. Services such as Twitter or Yammer offer significant advantages over simple e-mail and telephone contact. 5 Consider how information will flow to employees and to suppliers and/or customers or clients. Communications may be of vital importance in keeping the business running smoothly, so an emergency communications plan should be put into place, which identifies key contacts and sets up chains of communication so that information can be disseminated quickly to the relevant people. 6 The Health and Safety executive says opting for video-conferencing or teleconferencing where possible instead of holding meetings is a practical precaution. Remote electronic working, where feasible, will reduce face-to-face meetings. Even Scottish Resilience technology more usually used for leisure, such as webcams or real time e-mail conversations, could be remarkably effective in allowing businesses to continue at levels as close to normal as possible. Swine flu: Policy rethink 7 All these suggestions will require careful implementation, so employers should consider whether it might be necessary to put further employment policies in place to deal with them. In particular, employers should consider flexible working policies, covering flexibility of both hours and location, health and safety policies aimed at preventing the spread of the illness among employees who do attend the office, and policies that deal with how to reintegrate employees back into the office environment after they have been ill or caring for sick relatives. Review sickness policies to ensure they deal with all the relevant issues, including the potential for employees to be absent for extended periods, and the appropriate compensation in such a situation. Swine flu: Dealing with absence 8 In the event of a pandemic it is likely that as well as employees who are absent through sickness or caring responsibilities, there will be some employees who do not wish to come to work – taking ‘sickies’ because they are frightened of contracting the virus. The legal position is that employees are not entitled to refuse to come to work on the basis of such a fear alone, but employers must accept that such fears might outweigh concerns about being subject to disciplinary action. Employee sickness absences may create a need for other employees, if willing, to work longer hours in order to keep your business going. In this event, you will need to comply with the requirements of the Working Time Regulations 1998 as amended to ensure appropriate length of daytime working hours, night shifts and rest breaks. Swine flu: The impact on the business 9 No matter how careful the preparation, some companies could lose business as a result of a pandemic, and this may force employers to consider making employees redundant. Employers should ensure that they consider potential redundancies very carefully – even extreme circumstances such as a flu pandemic do not negate the requirement to carry out a fair procedure with proper selection and consultation and compliance with statutory dismissal procedures, and failure to comply with these requirements could lead to claims for unfair dismissal. 10 Equally important, workplace etiquette will need to change. Pandemic flu will usually be transmitted via coughs and sneezes. Scottish Resilience A colleague who doesn't bother to use a handkerchief could be spreading a potentially fatal disease. Surgical masks made familiar in the SARS outbreak in Asia may not be needed, but consistent hygiene will be essential. Direct staff to this Department of Health advert. As door handles and taps are another common breeding ground for infection, expect to enforce the mandatory use of antiseptic wipes to keep all common work areas germ- free. HSE's advice is to continue running any air conditioning system already provided for the workspace. In the meantime, don't panic – plan ahead.
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