Monday, 17 November 2014

How would your business cope?

 Ebola is claiming thousands of lives and wreaking economic chaos across Africa, and Midlands firms are being asked: “Are you geared up to cope in a major crisis?”

There are three key areas which employers need to examine, according to our employment law specialist, John Mehtam.

“Many organisations don’t pause to think how they will cope in the event of a major disaster or epidemic, thinking it will never happen to them.

“Right now, Ebola is in the news in Africa, but closer to home, we have had two recent outbreaks of foot and mouth disease, the swine flu pandemic of 2009, the volcanic ash disruption which caused air travel mayhem the following year, and now the bird flu outbreak in Yorkshire.

“Businesses need to consider their duty to protect the health and safety of staff, methods of dealing with potential staff absence, and how the possible suspension of ‘normal’ working practices will impact on people’s contracts of employment.”

Mr Mehtam, based at Martin-Kaye’s headquarters in Euston Way, Telford, said: “Companies have a duty to keep staff informed about any risks of possible outbreaks of disease, and take steps to ensure there is good hygiene.

“Many companies in the region have loyal staff who will struggle into work, even when they are not feeling 100 per cent.

“Managers might want to think about whether they should change their approach, and ask them to stay away, or offer them the chance to work from home.

“A well-advertised sickness policy might also help employers to reassure healthy, but worried staff, that work is relatively safe.

“Employers should also identify staff that could stand in for one another in the event of illness, as well as putting back-up plans in place. This might involve lining up potential external contractors.

“And managers must also bear in mind that the suspension of ‘normal’ working practices might mean the company needs to either amend contracts of employment, or suspend normal practices around returning to work, sick pay, or leave to care for dependant relatives.”