11.08.2009 Many employers still unprepared for managing HR issues related to H1N1

Approximately two in five employers (41 percent) do not have a human resources (HR) policy in place for health-related emergencies, yet many acknowledge they have employees in areas where cases of influenza A (H1N1) or "swine flu" have been confirmed, according to a new Mercer snapshot survey.
"With the continued increase of reported cases of influenza A, It is important for employers to develop a plan for dealing with the myrid HR issues that can arise in the event of a pandemic or other health care emergency," said Danielle Dorling, a consultant in Mercer's HR effectiveness consulting business. "In particular, organizations with a global workforce and decentralized HR units need to have a coherent procedure in place for employee care in the event of a health emergency."
Mercer's survey provides an understanding of how organizations are reacting to the spread of virus and what plans and procedures are being implemented. More than half (53 percent) of the employers surveyed were considering whether to create back-up and contingency plans in response to the outbreak. Others said they planned to restrict to cancel business travel (43 percent) or allow employees to work at home (41 percent). Other steps include voluntary quarantine for employees exposed to risk (27 percent), enforced quarantine on employees judged at risk (24 percent), cancelling meetings/conferences (21 percent), screening staff/visitors returning from travel (20 percent), requiring medical check-ups (12 percent) and reviewing health or insurance plans (10 percent). One-fourth (24 percent) indicated they were taking no special actions.
Employees who are no international assignment may require more support from their company in the event of a health-related emergency. Language barriers may mean that locally disseminated information is not received or understood. Also, limited knowledge of local health systems may cause difficulties in accessing the correct care and expatriates may well express a strong desire to return to their home location, which can be costly to the company in terms of immediate expenses as well as long-term overall assignment costs and productivity.
"Business continuity plans should be standardized and employers must be able to communicate in s streamlined, swift and decisive fashion," said Ms. Dorling. "Ad-hoc reaction can lead to confusion, unnecessary panic and expensive global inconsistencies that can expose the organization to significant financial risk".
Mercer's survey, which includes more than 400 mid-sized and large organisations worldwide, was conducted from 30th April to 11th May and include reponses from employers located in the US, Australia/New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, the UK, Hong Kong, Brazil, Vietnam, Switzerland, China, Argentina, South Korea, Singapore, the Russian federation the Philippines and Belgium.
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