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One in 10 employers still not prepared for swine flu

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Almost nine out of 10 employers (88%) think the threat of a swine flu pandemic is a high priority but 12% do not yet have a plan in place to deal with an outbreak in their organisation.

Healthcare provider International SOS found 69% of employers are prepared for the flu and 19% have a plan in progress. During the swine flu outbreak last month, 92% of those with plans took action, while 8% did nothing while they waited to find out what the next steps should be.   

Of the employers who activated their plan, 22% implemented employee communications, 20% increased workplace hygiene and 12% activated a travel ban to Mexico.

Last week the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced swine flu had reached phase six in a six-point scale - meaning the disease was now a global pandemic.

Craig Stark, regional medical director for assistance in Northern Europe at International SOS, told HR magazine: "This is not a disaster but businesses have to be prepared. As many as 50% of staff might have to take time off because of flu - either through sickness or caring for children if schools close.

"In the pandemic of 1918, at first a small number of people showed mild symptoms - but in the autumn of that year there was a highly lethal second wave. Influenza is incredibly unpredictable so we do not know if this will happen this time, but a pandemic can last up to 15 months.

"It is about business continuity  - now is not the time for employers to be complacent. Employers cannot prevent everyone from being sick but they can take measures to make sure employees do not all get sick at the same time."

What action should employers take to minimise the risk of swine flu in their organisation?