8 ways for employers to prepare for flu season

Last week we had flu shot day at Dilworth Paxson. I missed it. I was out prepping a client for an upcoming deposition. So, over the weekend, I shelled out the $24.95 and got a flu shot at the local drug store. Why? Because I don’t want to get sick and I don’t want to get other people sick. That’s precisely why my law firm offers free flu shots to its employees. (Plus, Mr. and Mrs. Meyer raised a conscientious son).

What is your business doing to prepare for flu season and a possible 2010/2011 pandemic? I’ve got eight suggestions for you after the jump.

  1. Develop an emergency response plan. The goal here is to protect employees while minimizing business interruption. So, establish ways to manage and control operations and communication in the event that corporate headquarters become inaccessible. Appoint a team responsible of coordinating planning. Make sure that core business operations can be maintained over an extended period of time with only a minimal workforce available. (International businesses should have pandemic coordinators at each facility). Assess potential availability of vaccine, determine its reliability and plan for distribution.
  2. Review and update policies and procedures. What polices are we talking about here? At a minimum: (a) Employee notification; (b) Telecommuting (c) Attendance;
    (d) Sick leave;
    (e) Vacation;
    (f) Paid time off;
    (g) Plant closings;
    (h) Financial assistance to employees; and (i) Travel.
  3. Educate and prepare your employees. It all starts with common sense health and hygiene (e.g., hand-washing/sanitizer, flu shots). Advise employees to plan for interruptions of essential government services (sanitation, water, transportation, power, food). Tell employees what you are doing to prepare for an emergency.
  4. Determine essential and non-essential business functions. Cross-train employees on essential functions.
  5. Assess communications and electronic infrastructure. Have several communication options such as websites, multiple email address, telephone (home/mobile), and facsimile. Also, make sure employees have remote access to the office.
    So, invest in necessary infrastructure, have sufficient backup and storage, and run tests.
  6. Update contact and emergency contact information for all employees. Consider having a telephone chain for contacting employees in the event of an emergency.
  7. Consult the following governmental agencies/groups for tips, updates, and best practices: U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Disease Control.
  8. Be reasonable. Don’t overreact. Don’t set the bar too high; the employer should be able to execute its emergency response plan.
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