The Ebola virus is in the news and, if your workplace is like ours, your employees may be wondering what your company is doing about it. This would be a good time to review your disaster recovery plans and update it for medical disasters if it was not done during the SARS scare. Workplace Medical Corp.’s Medical Director, Dr. Craig Karpilow, advises companies to always be prepared when medical outbreaks occur, as it is the employers’ overall responsibility to ensure that all practicable preventive and protective measures are taken to minimize occupational risks.
“Employers should consider the wide range of decisions that may arise, including: restricting international travel; medical inquiries and potential quarantines for employees who have traveled; leave from work; and educating management and employees,” says Karpilow.
Four Steps to Take to Prepare
One: Consider Evacuating Non-Essential Employees
If you have employees in the West Africa region, it is a good idea to evaluate the need for them to work in that area. If there are any employees who could do their jobs in countries not currently at risk, it’s best to temporarily relocate them to ensure their safety
Two: Put a Hold on Any Immediate Future Travel
Similar to evacuating employees is refraining from sending more employees to West Africa. In Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a travel advisory asking that only essential travelers enter the region. If you have scheduled employees for relocation or temporary business travel to the region, and that travel is not absolutely vital, it is wise to put a temporary halt to the moves.
Three: Put procedures in place in order to ensure that business proceeds as usual
Review employee leave policies, giving attention to flexible work solutions including staggered hours and telecommuting. Employ cross training so employees can help fill in and complete tasks in case of a co-worker falling ill. Establish points of contact for reporting absences. There should also be backups for these contact points. Make sure contacts know where to find answers with regard to the firm’s health plan.
Four: Have an Emergency Plan in Place
A good emergency plan for Ebola will include the following, non-exhaustive, parts:
- A way to recognize and report symptoms;
- A method to isolate an employee who demonstrates symptoms;
- The sterilization methods and protective equipment used to prevent the virus from spreading;
- How workers with symptoms will get proper medical care; and
- How any necessary information will be communicated to employees
While the spread of any virus is a scary thing, employees knowing that their employer is taking precautions, has a plan in place and has their health and best interests in mind can provide employees with great confidence and reassurance.