Absence management: UK plc not prepared for bird flu

Businesses remain worryingly complacent about the potential business risks from a bird flu pandemic and are not making contingency plans fast enough, a consultancy has warned.

The call by business information and advice service Croner followed a warning by banking giant HSBC in January that as many as 50% of its workforce could be put out of action by a pandemic.

With the spread of the disease to Turkey, albeit still without any sign yet of human-to-human transmission, businesses need to be working on contingency plans now, said Croner.

The company said it was receiving a growing number of calls to its telephone helplines from employers unsure if they should prepare for bird flu.

In March last year, the Department of Health warned that sickness absence rates across the country could more than double if the UK was hit by a pandemic.

In its study, Croner suggested the most likely business threats would come from employees taking time off sick to care for others or to avoid infection.

There would also be knock-on problems in covering for absent staff, costs from implementing health and safety policies, public transport disruption, disruption to the supply chain and to business travel.

Croner has advised employers to draw up a simple information and advice bulletin for employees.

Richard Smith, Croner employment services director, said: “It may be more front of mind to prepare for threats such as terrorism, but a pandemic could cause greater disruption.”

  • The Health Protection Agency has launched an online training course to help doctors learn more about the signs, symptoms and treatment of patients with pandemic flu. It can be found at www.doctors.net.uk

 For more on bird flu, go to Planning for the flu pandemic




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