Employees at risk as businesses ignore flu pandemic planning

Most organisations would fail to protect their staff against a flu pandemic because of a lack of forward planning, research suggests.

A survey commissioned by pharmaceutical giant Roche found that seven in 10 respondents admitted their companies were not sufficiently organised to protect their workers. Roche questioned 515 managers, including 150 HR directors.

The group also quizzed 2,200 workers, and found that only 13% of respondents believed their employers had HR policies in place to tackle an outbreak. Despite the awareness of a risk to employees, 69% of managers felt that up to one-third of their workforce would face increased stress in a pandemic. More than a third of managers did not have any plans for communicating with employees and customers in the event of an outbreak. Only two in 10 knew that their company had set up such a strategy.

Russell Price, chairman of the Continuity Forum, an information provider for business continuity management, said HR directors needed to do more to protect their employees. He told Personnel Today: "HR directors simply aren't putting enough emphasis on business continuity in the event of a pandemic, despite the huge impact it would have on staff."

Jon Ingham, director of HR consultancy Strategic Dynamics Consultancy Services, said: "HR teams need to prepare a communication plan and, if the risk was considered to be sufficient, HR would then need to educate employees about potential actions, particularly with ongoing threats like SARS and avian flu."

Bob Piggott, head of crisis management at HSBC bank, said: "A possible influenza pandemic would have such a large impact for a global business such as ours, that over the past 18 months, with advice from health organisations, we have developed specific plans to supplement our existing arrangements."