Covid & the Importance of a Workplace Pandemic Preparedness Policy

March 13, 2020

With coronavirus hitting the UK, the World Health Organisation (WHO) characterising it as a pandemic, and Donald Trump banning travel from European countries to the US (except for the UK), businesses may have to make some big decisions to ensure workforce safety.

Companies should be referring to their pandemic preparedness policy to understand what precautions should be taken to ensure the safety of their workforce. However, this is the first time that a pandemic has stemmed from a coronavirus, which means that some policies will have to be updated before plans can be rolled out.

Companies that have not previously invested in a policy, or are in a position where their plan is not relevant to a coronavirus, can invest in a ready-made pandemic preparedness policy. Any policy that takes COVID-19 specifically into consideration will help speed up the implementation of procedures concerning not only employee safety, but also the safety of their family and friends.

What is a pandemic?

A pandemic refers to:

  • A disease that is spreading across the globe beyond what was expected AND
  • Where there are no cases of immunity

A pandemic can only be declared following the second wave of an infection that spreads from person to person.

What do you do in a pandemic?

When a pandemic is declared, it is crucial that all businesses remain up to date, and comply with recommendations made by the World Health Organisations, the NHS and the government.

Companies should also analyse how the pandemic could impact their workforce. They should implement measures that protect staff, their circle of friends and family, and anyone they come into contact with under the umbrella of work. While it may not be possible to protect staff entirely, steps should be put in place to minimise risk.

The action plan should be laid out within the company pandemic policy.

What is a pandemic preparedness policy?

The WHO describes pandemic preparedness as continually evolving, planning, exercising, revising and translating actions in response to both national and sub-national response plans.

A pandemic policy summarises the action plan that should be followed. As pandemic preparedness evolves, the policy should too.

Why do businesses need a pandemic policy?

A company pandemic preparedness policy is required to outline:

  • How the company will monitor the situation
  • What budget is available for any contingency plans
  • The commitments the company makes to its employees

Topics within the policy could include:

  • What flexible working systems can be implemented
  • A plan of action if an employee is infected
  • Safeguarding practices that prevent transmission of the illness

Having a clear plan of action to follow after a pandemic declaration will relieve fears that can quickly grow within a workplace; mainly as there will be a lot of media coverage surrounding the situation.

When do businesses need a pandemic policy?

A business should have a pandemic policy in place at all times. This policy should be reviewed and amended accordingly, particularly when there is potential for a pandemic to be declared.

If a company does not have a pandemic policy in place when a declaration is made, valuable time could be lost trying to put a plan together. This increases the risk to employees, customers and anyone they may be in contact with

Companies that do not have a policy in place, or a policy that’s not fit for the specific pandemic, should invest in a pre-made plan as soon as possible.

Coronavirus update releases daily details outlining the number of people who have been tested in the UK and the results. As of March 12th 2020:

  • 27,276 UK individuals had been tested for coronavirus
  • 17,020 results were confirmed as negative
  • 564 results were confirmed as positive
  • Ten patients with positive test results have died

Since we last posted about coronavirus, the UK Chief Medical Officers have increased the UK risk level from low to moderate.

If you are concerned about the health and safety of your employees, invest in a pandemic preparedness policy that has been explicitly tailored to coronavirus.


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