Remember swine flu? The potential pandemic that this spring had people walking around in surgical masks and calling to close our border with Mexico?

Although the furor has died down, the swine flu threat has not, according to health experts. In fact, public health officials are predicting a resurgence of swine flu. As a result, legal eagles Ed Foulke and Howard Mavity, co-chairs of the workplace safety & catastrophe management practice Group at law firm Fisher & Phillips, have outlined 12 steps for employers to prepare for swine flu: 

1. Develop a response plan, including how to respond to employees who may develop the flu or flu-like symptoms.  Understand ADA and other legal requirements.

2. Analyze business activities, including contractor and vendor preparedness, the effect on attendance caused by employee illness or fears, school closings, and disruption of public transportation.

3. Review pertinent safety policies and practices, including personal hygiene, blood-borne pathogens, PPE, and respiratory protection.

4. Maintain and test an emergency communications procedure and systems, including where access may be denied to the home office or jobsites.

5. Revise telecommuting policies, including wage-hour, confidentiality, and electronic security.

6. Revise attendance, leave, vacation or paid time off policies, and consider the effect  swine flu-related absenteeism could take on your workforce.

7. Revise policies regarding loans, pay advances and 401(k) hardship withdrawals. Consider addressing unfunded liabilities, such as for disability and other salary continuation programs.

8. Revise travel policies in compliance with public health guidance. 

9. Prepare for how to handle employees who refuse to travel or to come to work.

10. Develop a relationship with an occupational health care provider or consider hiring a company physician or nurse.

11. Provide free or discounted flu shots and other wellness services.

12. Stockpile essential items. 

For more on developing your disaster preparedness policies and procedures, click here.  

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