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It’s the beginning of 2020 and already major corporations are having to updateadjust, or completely withdraw their financial guidance due to the Coronavirus outbreak, now officially named COVID-19 by the WHO, which started in late 2019 in Wuhan, China. With over 43,000 infected and 1,000 dead, the outbreak is undeniably a major consideration in how to do business at the opening of this new decade.

Global organizations with offices, operations, and supply chains that extend into China and beyond are already having to activate contingency plans and dig into stockpiles of components and cash in order to continue to operate, and are increasingly considering the human element in their responses – how do they operate their businesses without unreasonably exposing their workers and the workers of their supply chain to risk of this disease? These questions are answered through their Pandemic Policies.

Just like your existing Disaster Recovery Policy or your Business Continuity Policy, the Pandemic Policy should be in your preparation arsenal to guide your organization and its employees, customers, and suppliers on just how you will maintain business operations should this or any other pandemic begin to affect your business.

What components should be in a Pandemic Policy?

A well written Pandemic Policy should be able to clearly set the expectations you have for your employees so your organization can continue to service your corporate mission and deliver value to the customers and business partners you service. In order to successfully accomplish this, your policy should:

  1. Describe under what conditions your Pandemic Policy becomes active
  2. Guide your staff on what to do when a pandemic seems possible but has not yet directly impacted your area, suppliers, customers, or staff. This includes:
    • Where to get updates on the current status of the pandemic
    • Where to get updates on the status of the offices
    • Where to report illness and absenteeism
    • How to protect themselves and their families from getting ill during the pandemic
  3. Describe how your organization will modify its business operations to remain in operation during a pandemic, including:
    • How you will protect your staff
    • How you will get supplies
    • How you will deliver services
    • How pay and PTO will be modified during a pandemic
  4. Explain under what conditions your offices will remain open and when they will be officially closed
  5. Explain how your organization will protect its staff during a pandemic
  6. Explain under what conditions an office will reopen after a pandemic

Example Pandemic Policy

The below is an example of a basic Pandemic Policy for a professional services organization with multiple offices:

EMPLOYEES COVERED BY THIS POLICY
THIS POLICY APPLIES TO ALL STAFF of ACME Corporation

A. INTRODUCTION

ACME Corporation has developed plans for a potential pandemic crisis, including the development of this Pandemic Policy. This policy is designed for various scenarios that are likely to involve combinations of the following elements:

  1. High rates of absenteeism affecting the ability of the Firm’s departments to function.
  2. The closing of an office for a period of time.

The literature on pandemics indicates that a pandemic may last within the world for up to two years, with two to three waves and each wave lasting up to two months. It is likely that not all parts of the world would be affected at the same time. If a wave were to hit New York, all of the scenarios could occur, with high rates of absenteeism (20 percent to 60 percent) lasting for periods of two to four weeks at the height of each wave, with possible office closings in the last half of a wave.

During a pandemic, the Firm could experience increased absences due to illness, caring for ill family members, fear, public school closings, quarantines, and office closings. This Pandemic Policy is applicable when the Corporate Leadership declares a pandemic emergency for the Firm in one or more of its offices. Provisions of these policies may be implemented on a full or partial basis.

B. BE PROACTIVE

ACME Corporation as a company is constantly conscious of the health and wellbeing needs of the staff. Best practices are constantly being reviewed and updated by our benefits management team. The firm frequently has representatives from the healthcare industry available for employee discussions and questions onsite. Recent initiatives of the benefits department have included adding hand sanitizers at major focal points in the organization, including restrooms, cafeterias, meeting rooms, and time logging areas; bringing in healthcare professionals to administer flu vaccines; and posting health information and fliers in public areas.

C. WHEN AN OFFICE REMAINS OPEN DURING HIGH RATES OF ABSENTEEISM

When an office remains open during a pandemic emergency, employees will continue to cover absences in accordance with the existing policies for the use of Personal Time Off (PTO), with the following exceptions.

  1. The annual limits on the usage of PTO are waived for the period covered under the declared pandemic emergency. There are no annual limits on the use of PTO.
  2. The advance approval requirements for the use of PTO are waived for the period covered under the declared pandemic emergency.

Employees are expected to notify their supervisor prior to any absence in accordance with Firm

personnel policy and departmental procedures. If paid time‐off benefits have been exhausted, then the time away from work is recorded as absent without pay.

Disciplinary actions due to absences without pay are waived for the period covered under the declared pandemic emergency.

Personal hygiene would take a new level of importance if an office remained open during a pandemic emergency. Hand‐sanitizer is available to our employees on a limitless basis with dispensers throughout the office, and janitorial staff frequently cleans high‐contact objects, such as doorknobs and printers.

D. WHEN PART OF AN OFFICE IS CLOSED

When specific offices are closed, employees that are affected by the closing will be assigned an alternative work assignment or location to the extent the Firm determines feasible.

  1. If an alternative work assignment or location is available and the employee chooses not to accept it, the employee is to cover the time away from work with PTO.
  2. If no alternative work assignment or location is available, the employee is to cover the time away from work with PTO.

Employees will also be given the option to work in shifts in an attempt to limit the spread of the pandemic by reducing density in the workplace.

State and Federal Policies, including the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Rights Policy will continue to apply to leaves covered by these policies.

  1. This applies whether an employee is on a leave when the pandemic emergency is declared of if a leave begins after the pandemic emergency is declared.
  2. If an employee’s work unit is closed due to the pandemic emergency when the employee’s leave ends, the provisions of paragraphs 2 and 3 of section C apply.

These paid time off provisions will not apply to Hourly employees. Hourly employees are not paid

for time away from work.

The provisions in section B., “Policies when an office remains open during high rates of absenteeism,” apply to those parts of the Firm that remain open.

E. WHEN AN ENTIRE OFFICE IS CLOSED

When an entire office is closed due to a declared pandemic emergency, all employees who would otherwise be working if not for the closing will be paid and will not be required to use accumulated time‐off benefits for the duration of the emergency closing up to 15 calendar days. Following the initial 15 calendar days, the Corporate Leadership will evaluate the situation and make a determination if this provision is to be continued and if so, for how long. This provision does not apply to hourly employees.

State and Federal Policies, including the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Rights Policy will continue to apply to leaves covered by these policies.

  1. This applies whether an employee is on a leave when the pandemic emergency is declared of if a leave begins after the pandemic emergency is declared.
  2. If an employee’s work unit is closed due to the pandemic emergency when the employee’s leave ends, the provisions of paragraph 1 of section D apply.

When the firm reopens, the regular polices and use of time‐off benefits will be reinstated for absences occurring thereafter.

Michael Maser

Michael Maser

co.Founder and CTO at UOTech.co

Michael Maser has over 18 years of experience in Information Technology Consulting and internal IT Leadership in the Distribution, Legal, and Healthcare verticals. He is the co.Founder and CTO of UOTech.co, an IT Consulting, Managed Services, and Information Security company based out of Plainview, NY.

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