HR praised for calming bird flu outbreak fears

A figure at the heart of the bird flu scare that rocked the UK last week has praised HR staff across the poultry industry for keeping workers’ fears under control.


Richard Griffiths, senior executive officer at the British Poultry Council, said HR professionals had provided vital “practical” help.


Bird flu dominated the headlines at the start of last week when an Asian strain of the deadly H5N1 virus was found at a Bernard Matthews farm in Holton, Suffolk. More than 150,000 turkeys were destroyed by government experts, emergency restrictions were imposed in the area, and two health protection workers were tested for the disease.


There were reports of plummeting poultry sales, and fears for the health and jobs of those directly involved with handling chickens and turkeys. But farmers and processors remained calm, Griffiths told Personnel Today.


“We have seen very little concern from the people directly involved – that has pleased us,” he said.


“We have worked closely with the government to develop policy on dealing with bird flu. But this has to filter down to employees, and that is where individual HR departments have come into their own and applied the policy in a practical way that people can understand.”


Griffiths added that he was confident the Holton outbreak had been contained, and that the industry was ready to deal with any fresh scare. Bernard Matthews sent staff home while the cull was carried out, but reassured unions that no jobs were under threat.

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