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Business Continuity Guidelines Dealing with a Pandemic Flu [Hardfacts]

Introduction

In today's connected business and social environment there is increased potential for rapid spread of a new flu virus which could affect your staff, business partners and customers. Businesses need to ensure their Business Continuity planning measures are developed to deal with the potential impact of pandemic flu.

This document highlights the measures that can be taken.

Pandemic flu is a worldwide epidemic and it differs from seasonal flu because it occurs when a new flu virus emerges into the human population to which most people will be susceptible to and which can be spread from person to person.

Keep Yourself Informed

Don't panic unnecessarily at the first news of an outbreak and keep informed of the threat level

  • Be aware that the media may report speculation in the absence of fact in a fast moving story. 
  • Check for updates with the www.hpa.org.uk
  • Where an outbreak has a foreign origin first review the need for business travel to that destination

Prevention and Control

Pandemic Flu is usually spread from person to person when an infected person has symptoms such as coughing and sneezing. Any location where there is social contact between individuals can assist with the spread of a virus, so in a pandemic situation it is vital that businesses participate in prevention and control measures to keep a healthy workforce and for the wider benefit of the community.

The NHS has prepared a leaflet which is available as a PDF from the UK Health Protection Agency as per the attached link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/pandemic-flu-checklist-for-businesses

  • Recognising the symptoms of influenza like illness (ILI)
  • Self isolation by individuals with ILI symptoms and that they do not continue working. Does your absence and illness policies need to be amended during an influenza outbreak?
  • Good respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene. What can you do to promote the "Catch It, Bin It, Kill It" campaign in the workplace such as access to tissues, bins and hand sanitation?
  • Basic hygiene measures on surfaces frequently touched by hands. What changes need to be made to cleaning schedules for desks, door furniture etc?
  • The leaflet also gives specific guidance on the use and limitations of face masks

Further measures that businesses can undertake to prevent and control the spread of a virus include

  • The effective use of social distancing (i.e. 1 metre) within the workplace
  • Staggering breaks to reduce contact and crowding, e.g. in canteens, common rooms and break out areas
  • Consider increased use of alternative communication methods (e.g. telephone, video conferencing) to reduce staff travel between business locations.

Maintaining Essential Business Operations

Consider the impact of a pandemic - undertake a Business Impact Analysis

Identify/consider critical assets:

  • Which parts of the business is it essential to keep running?
  • Core people & skills required to keep business running
  • What are the critical numbers required to do so?
  • Are there sufficient back-ups for staff and skills; training requirement?
  • Any other resources which could be used - retired & agency staff?
  • Can any functions be done remotely e.g. electronically or by phone?
  • What systems rely upon intervention by staff to keep them going? How long could they continue to function?
  • Ensure you are able to comply with any regulatory and contractual requirements.

Include the potential effects upon your business of a pandemic affecting the business chain:

  • Suppliers of materials and services
  • Subcontractors
  • Customers

Implement a Plan

Create and implement a plan to deal with the situation:

  • In addition to illness, absence may be caused by transport disruptions, school closures and care leave. Have clear policies on how this will be dealt with to avoid confusion and maintain the goodwill of the workforce
  • Plan for up to 50% staff absences for periods of up to 2-3 weeks and slightly lower figures for the weeks either side
  • Ensure essential positions have a deputy available
  • Possibility of Flexible Working e.g. staggered shifts and different hours; rotate staff from non-pandemic hit areas? This may also help to reduce absenteeism as a result on non-illness issues, e.g. school closures.
  • Prepare for a reduction in customer numbers but try and counteract it if possible by arranging for services/orders to be provided by phone, email, internet etc rather than by personal calling; extend business hours/opening hours
  • Consider changes which will allow staff to work from home 
  • Be aware that many of your business partners may also be using a work from home measures and consider how this may change contact methods and response times

Consider stockpiling supplies and agree arrangements with key suppliers in the event of shortages or disruptions in the transport systems e.g. suppliers and logistics companies might not be able to meet demands because of their own staff shortages;

  • Potential restrictions on imports and exports of certain types of goods
  • Identify alternative suppliers you can turn to
  • Establish policies for restricting travel to affected areas - UK or abroad
    - Ask employees to reconsider postponing non essential travel and consider what effect this might have on your business e.g. lack of buying/selling opportunities
    - Decide how to assist those stranded outside of the country 
    - Manage their return once back in the country e.g. stay at home for a specific period as advised by relevant official guidelines at the time including those on leisure travel

Returning to Normal

Be aware of the issues surrounding a return to normal working

  • This may be staggered across businesses with multiple locations
  • Your business partners may not be able to synchronise their start up with yours if they are still impacted by the pandemic
  • If you have suffered a more comprehensive shut down then give as much notice as possible to your suppliers to enable them to plan their increase in output.

Key Action Steps

  • Keep informed but don't panic
  • Participate in prevention and control measures
  • Undertake a Business Impact Analysis
  • Create a Plan to deal with the situation based upon the resources you have available
  • Don't forget the business chain
  • Plan your return to normal
  • Review your actions once normality returns

Sources of Further Information

Next Steps:

  • Source discounted products, available to Aviva insured customers and brokers only, via our Preferred Supplier Scheme - click here to find out more about the savings you could make
  • View our Tools and Templates
  • Call our Risk Helpline on 0345 366 66 66
  •  Email us at riskadvice@aviva.com

Please Note
This document contains general information and guidance and is not and should not be relied on as specific advice. The document may not cover every risk, exposure or hazard that may arise and Aviva recommend that you obtain specific advice relevant to the circumstances. AVIVA accepts no responsibility or liability towards any person who may rely upon this document.

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