As increasing numbers of coronavirus cases are being reported and with the World Health Organisation warning that the whole world must take action, it is important for businesses to have a response in place to protect their employees against this potential threat. Today, Gallagher released some key guidelines for containment and protecting staff, outlining what can be done in a pandemic scenario.
The virus, which has already resulted in recorded deaths, has spread since the beginning of the year to multiple international locations including South-East Asian countries, the United States and Australia.
Gallagher’s guidelines state: “Due to our trade relationships with China, and the popularity of Australia as a destination for Chinese tourists, Australian businesses are particularly at risk.”
The guidelines outline that the employees which could be at risk in such a scenario are those who are travelling to or from a foreign destination, domestic employees at a foreign location and employees who may have unknowingly been exposed to the virus.
If you have employees travelling to China, Gallagher advises that it may be necessary to enforce a travel ban to China or affected areas and that businesses should be issuing travel advice and tracking individuals. If travel is essential, employees should be advised on ways to protect themselves and be provided with masks.
Domestic employees in China should also be given advice and approved masks, according to Gallagher, and a work-from-home strategy should be promoted to minimise the risk of exposure.
If employees are returning from China they should be tracked and businesses should implement a notification process for displaying symptoms.
How to avoid infection
Dr Debra Villar, benefit services corporate wellbeing specialist at Gallagher, advised that those experiencing fever, cough or sore throat should see their doctors immediately, and people exhibiting these symptoms should be avoided.
The guidelines issued by Gallagher state that people looking to protect themselves should:
- Suspend travel to affected areas.
- Practice good hygiene.
- Avoid contact with anyone with the flu.
- Boost their immune system by eating well, exercising and decreasing stress levels.
Actions all business can take:
- Consider flexible working arrangements to prevent the spread of the virus in the workplace or the community.
- Update policies on fitness for work including possible quarantining of employees and formalising the requirement for employees to remain off work if affected.
- Update travel rules and arrangements for limiting non-essential business travel.
- Review arrangements for workplace hygiene and cleaning protocols including “cough and sneeze etiquette”.
- Protect the mental wellbeing of employees concerned about the coronavirus. Gallagher’s guidelines highlighted the importance of businesses promoting clear communication to provide reassurance to employees regarding their welfare.
Keep up to date
Employers should remain alert for updates and advice from authorities, Gallagher said, and keep up to date with the guidance of public health organisations which are taking steps to manage the spread of the disease.
The guidelines detailed that: “Public health departments in all states in Australia have the ability, facilities and clearly established protocols for placing people in quarantine to prevent communicable disease from spreading.”
Insurance cover should also be checked to ensure that it can be applied to staff evacuation or the suspension of business activities, whether voluntarily or under the direction of health authorities.