UPDATE (03.12.2020): Since the publishing of this blog post the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has infected more than 130,267 confirmed unique cases and has killed over 4,700 of those affected across 125 countries.
The recent outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has spread to more than 85,000 unique cases. While the vast majority of cases have occurred in mainland China, the virus has infected more than 1,000 individuals in 29 countries and has killed over 3,000CIE.
Pandemic illnesses have the potential to cause significant business disruptions for organizations. The spread of a virus can span wide geographic areas and last months or even longer, posing challenges to business operations that are unique from a natural disaster, act of terrorism or other issues that would cause disruption to operations. Therefore, specific planning for pandemics should be addressed as part of your firm’s overall business continuity plan (BCP).
Plans should reflect your firm’s size, complexity and core business activities and be flexible enough to respond to various facts and circumstances that may arise.
One critical aspect in preparing for a pandemic is a thoughtful prevention program. By communicating the risks and steps employees may take to protect themselves, firms may help employees stay healthy.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC), has published a flyer with guidance on how to stop the spread of the coronavirus germs:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Cover your cough with a tissue then throw the tissue in the trash
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces
- Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
Posting preventative information in prominent locations and communicating to all employees via email may prevent illnesses from spreading. Requiring sick employees to stay away from the office is also critical in preventing an officewide outbreak.
Firms can further prepare for the prevention of illness by stocking an inventory of equipment including surface wipes, hand sanitizing products, and masks. Making these items available to employees during a pandemic will mitigate the risk that it will spread throughout the office.
Continuing Essential Business Functions
Even with an effective prevention program, absenteeism is likely to pose a challenge to your firm in the event of a pandemic. Employees who are affected by illness, are caring for sick family members or are fearful of contracting the disease may be absent from work, affecting business operations.
An assessment of the critical business functions will help identify the key personnel necessary to continue serving clients. Cross training for these functions will ensure that your firm is adequately prepared for extended and multiple absences.
If critical employees are physically able to work remotely during a pandemic in order to prevent the spread of germs or to care for a sick family member, planning for adequate access to software and hardware, remote servers, cloud technologies is necessary. Identifying which employees are permitted or expected to work remotely and preparing and testing the capabilities in advance of a disruption is critical. It is also important to verify that insurance coverage is extended to employees working remotely in the event of a disaster or emergency.
Key Service Providers
An assessment of service provider’s BCP is an important aspect of a due diligence evaluation and should be included in your firm’s risk assessment and testing how to reach them in the event of a similar pandemic.
Testing and Training
Business continuity plans should be tested at least on an annual basis, and employees should receive training of updated plans annually. To test for a pandemic disruption, a firm may have critical employees work remotely to test the systems and capabilities. Taking inventory of the preventative supplies, testing communications systems both internally and with key service providers will also help to determine how prepared your firm is to respond in the event of a pandemic.
Core Compliance and our team of experts can help your firm draft pandemic preparation plans or a full business continuity plan. Our experts are also available to test and update existing plans and to develop and deliver appropriate employee trainings.
Contact our team of experts today at (619) 278-0020.