Companies restrict travel to SARS-affected countries

Some
UK employers are quarantining staff in a bid to stop infection spreading

Firms
around the world are erring on the side of caution when it comes to responding
to the threat of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), a study has
concluded.

UK
employers, such as UBS Warburg, Barclays and Asda, have been halting
international travel and quarantining staff as a precaution against passing on
infection.

A
study of 400 firms by New York-based consultancy Organization Resources
Counselors (ORC) found most firms had restricted travel to affected areas or,
at the very least, required high-level approval for such trips.

Almost
half had limited travel within affected regions by staff, and more than a fifth
were permitting early homecomings for employees on expatriate assignments.
However, whether the quarantine period – usually 10 days – was treated as paid
leave, or whether firms expected people to work from home, varied.

Firms
were also trying to limit exposure for people working in affected areas by
increasing the use of telecommuting, teleconferencing, and flexible working
hours.

Companies
found getting information out to staff was one of the most effective means of
combatting the spread of the disease. A total of 82 per cent of those polled
said they had activated SARS education programmes for staff.

In
addition, 43 per cent were conducting active surveillance of staff with
SARS-like symptoms, with some managers required to report suspected SARS.

Some
companies were even screening visitors and asking those who exhibited symptoms,
such as coughing, to leave.

Occupational
safety and health managers polled by ORC were concerned that companies did not
overreact.

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