HR Management & Compliance

Sick Employees and Crisis Management

Find more articles and other resources for employers to deal with swine flu

Unless you have been trapped on a deserted island with no access to the media, you know that an outbreak of swine flu in Mexico has spread to countries across the globe. Is it something businesses should worry about or is it just a media-induced frenzy? The answer is probably “yes” to both questions.

Even if your company seems to be at absolutely no risk for being affected by swine flu, this still should be a wake-up call to revisit your crisis management plan and how your business deals with sick employees. It’s time to look at the crisis management plan because swine flu falls into that category of things you have limited or no control over — like floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and gas shortages — that can have a significant impact on your business with little or no warning. It’s just one more thing to deal with in what is already a very uncertain and challenging business environment.

For example, last summer in parts of the Southeast there were 2 to 3 weeks when you couldn’t find gas at any price. Anyone who had to deliver goods or travel to customers was struggling. This week, President Obama said that schools with confirmed or suspected cases of swine flu should seriously consider closing and recommended parents start coming up with a plan because just shifting students to child care doesn’t fix the problem. Can your employees who are parents work from home or take leave? Is your business ready to address those sorts of sudden changes? If that’s not reason enough, hurricane season in the Atlantic starts exactly one month from today.

Another issue the swine flu raises is how businesses deal with sick employees. If employees believe their job security will be negatively affected if they take sick leave they will be tempted to go to work when they are sick. And if employees have no paid leave and would lose money if they take time off when they are sick, they, too, are more likely to bring their germs to work and share them with their coworkers.

So, this week’s issue of HR Hero Line focuses on preparing for swine flu or other emergencies that can affect your business operations or employees, dealing with sick employees, and tips on setting up a telecommuting program and managing offsite employees.

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