SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT - Advice for businesses about
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
To reduce the impact of these potential problems, you will need to ensure that
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
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.
You should also review advice from Health and Safety Executive concerning
infection control measures in the workplace. This is available at
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
Department for Business Enterprise & Regulatory Reform
UK Financial Sector Continuity - http://www.fsc.gov.uk/section.asp?catid=14&docid=2417
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
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
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
cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, using a single use
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
cleaning hard surfaces (e.g. door handles) frequently using a normal cleaning
making sure your children follow this advice
More information about general business continuity is available at:
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
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
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
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.
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
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.