As most employers will be aware of the numbers of Influenza A H1N1 (swine flu) cases in New Zealand are increasing. The Ministry of Health advises that this trend is likely to continue over the coming weeks and months.
Obviously, a pandemic of this kind, or any similar type of crisis, will affect your business, your staff and customers. Just how much you are affected will depend on the severity of the crisis and how well prepared you are.
Businesses need to develop and update their business continuity plans and review them regularly to be able to respond in a crisis. It is important to develop the steps your business will take before, during and after a crisis, such as a pandemic. There is no one single response to plan for. Employers and their employees need to work together to respond flexibly depending on the situation, to enable your business to stay open. Our advice has always been that employers and employees should agree in advance on how they will manage and maintain their employment relationship during a crisis.
During such an event normal employment and health and safety laws apply.
Employees being unable to work during a pandemic due to being quarantine, personal illness or caring for someone else are legitimate realities that have to be managed, and not unreasonably avoided. As a starting point, the options available for dealing with absent staff are in accordance with the employee's employment agreement and related workplace policies. In administering these policies, employers need to be conscious not only of the need to manage during a crisis, but how the business will recover from the impact of the decisions made, particularly in terms of their relationship with their staff and customers.
For further information and guidance regarding your pandemic planning, check out www.moh.govt.nz