Do Your Clients Have a Pandemic Illness Plan?
Last year’s Ebola outbreak was a stark reminder that frightening and serious contagious diseases still exist. However, many people and businesses overlook the fact that more common infectious illnesses can also have a significant impact on employee health and business operations, such as the current, and especially virulent, 2014 to 2015 flu season. Pandemic illnesses like influenza pose a variety of workplace safety issues, so it’s critical for employers to implement a workplace pandemic illness plan or ensure their existing plan is up to date.
Creating a pandemic illness plan
A pandemic illness plan or policy guides an employer in managing an outbreak of pandemic illness in the workplace, and outlines policies to protect sick workers, well workers, and customers. A comprehensive pandemic illness plan may include the following policies:
Infectious disease policy. This policy should spell out employees’ responsibility to stay home when ill to avoid infecting coworkers, employer obligations such as sick leave, and consequences for employees who violate the policy, such as being sent home.
Sick leave policy. Employers should ensure their sick leave policies accommodate employees who have influenza or another highly contagious infectious illness. Encourage employees to use sick leave without fear of reprisal.
Protocols. Employers should review their procedures for responding to a pandemic illness. These procedures should include communication with all employees; guidelines for dealing with symptomatic employees; employee education measures to prevent the spread of illness (for example, proper hand-washing technique); minimizing direct contact with sick employees using telecommuting and email; and providing items to stem the spread of illness, such as hand sanitizer, tissues, and touch-free garbage cans.
Business continuity plan. The Business Pandemic Influenza Planning Checklist at Flu.gov recommends you specify when your business will activate its business continuity plan, should a widespread outbreak of contagious illness such as influenza make it necessary to do so.
No one wants to think about the possibility of a pandemic illness. However, your clients need to be prepared for the worst and have an appropriate pandemic illness workplace plan in place — one they’ll hopefully never need to use. Your clients will be able to rest easy knowing they are prepared in the event of a crisis.