Inadequate guidance from government and lack of business preparedness for possible flu pandemic, say academics
Huge gaps exist in the level of advice given to European businesses to prepare for a possible influenza pandemic, a new report found.
The economic impact and disruption to business during a human flu pandemic is likely to be substantial. A pandemic could escalate quickly, last for many months, and infect 25 % or more of the world’s population, according to public health experts.
The report, Business Continuity Planning and Pandemic Influenza in Europe, published by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), has found that the advice on preparedness given to businesses by governments and independent organisations, such as consultancy firms, is insufficient.
Out of 30 governments surveyed, over a third offered no advice at all and only 8 provided significant levels of advice. Much of the guidance relies on private consultancies, which are unaffordable for many SMEs, said the report.
“We suggest that public and private advisory organisations take immediate action to develop more comprehensive guidelines.
Richard Coker, reader in public health at LSHTM
In the event of a pandemic, unusually high rates of absenteeism could severely disrupt normal business activities. Estimates suggest that between 15 to 50% of employees will need to take an extra 5 to 14 days sick leave in the event of a pandemic. But, according to the report, only 10 countries provide planning to support human resources.
The authors advised businesses to develop a clear overview of the possible risks and impact of a pandemic on their resources and business activities and plan accordingly.
Dr Richard Coker, reader in public health at LSHTM and one of the authors of the report said, “We suggest that public and private advisory organisations take immediate action to develop more comprehensive guidelines. Moreover, guidance should be explicit about corporate social responsibilities and actions should be coherent with corporate strategic goals, operational planning, and national strategies.”
Other areas of advice which the report considers as lacking or inconsistent include:
Management of employees suspected to be ill at work
Measures to minimise the spread of the virus in the workplace
Acquisition and distribution of protection equipment and antiviral medication
Legal issues arising under the circumstances of an influenza pandemic
The development of business recovery plans