Business Link, the Government support service, has launched a special section on its website ‘to help businesses prepare for the potential Swine Flu Crisis’ – which, judging by the blanket media coverage this week, is apparently imminent. Business Link wants all companies ‘to consider their crisis management in the light of possible further outbreaks’. We’re all for continuity planning, but shouldn’t the Government be trying to quell the swine flu hysteria rather than fan the flames?
Pointing out, not unreasonably, that ‘unplanned events can have a devastating effect on businesses,’ Business Link is recommending that you re-do your continuity plans, swot up on how to perform a risk assessment, and check the health and safety controls for international trade. ‘It's important to identify what the potential risks are and the possible impact on the business, produce a crisis plan and test it to see whether it works,’ says Jonathan Hollow, the Head of Public Sector Reform at businesslink.gov.uk.
According to Hollow, ‘businesses can minimise the impact of most crises, including large numbers of your staff potentially being on sick leave.’ Now we’re not totally convinced there’s a huge amount you can do if half of the entire workforce suddenly comes down with flu, to be honest, but either way we got distracted by wondering why a public sector organisation has a head of public sector reform. Is his job to work out how to sack superfluous bureaucrats, and if so, is there not a conflict of interest there?
At least the Government can argue that it’s performing a vital public service. Then again, the site also says soothingly that Business Link will be ‘using this page to keep you updated on swine flu as the situation develops’ – yet last time we looked, it was carrying the wrong pandemic threat level. Doesn’t exactly inspire us with confidence...
And there are plenty of other organisations doing their bit to panic everyone. The Daily Mail has clearly run so many headlines about the likelihood of swine flu destroying the entire world that it’s even managed to scare itself: Healthcare Connections, a ‘specialist organisation in pandemic preparedness since 2004’, reports that the Mail is one of the ‘leading organisations’ to take up its Antiviral Protection Plan, which guarantees access to the necessary drugs (admittedly in the last outbreak of swine flu, in the US in 1976, more people were killed by a bad reaction to the vaccine than the actual virus – but let’s not split hairs).
'This sudden emergence of a devastating strain of the flu virus is serious and concerning,' says CEO (and leading humanitarian) Alison Brown. ‘At a cost of just £1 per month, per person, we are offering people peace of mind at an affordable price.’ Apparently, her company’s already managed to flog nearly 500,000 such protection plans. Who says swine flu will be bad for business?
In today's bulletin:
5,000 UK companies go bust in three months
MPs slam bankers again - despite rise in lending
Swine flu: don't panic, says Business Link!
If in doubt, don't have a meeting
Handling redundancies, with YouTube