Workplace rights: Pandemic precautions

A quarter of employees could contract swine flu this autumn, if the pandemic takes hold.

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Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Most cases will be mild, but widespread absenteeism could have a devastating impact on businesses, so forward planning is vital. Priorities will be to preserve business continuity and take steps to protect staff, especially vulnerable groups such as pregnant women and those with existing medical conditions. Employers exposing staff to needless risk could face personal injury claims, although claimants may find it hard to establish that infection occurred through work. Contingency plans include establishing minimum front-line staffing levels, facilitating flexible working (eg, from home), redeploying staff, and organising ways to hire and train temporary staff at short notice. To avoid legal challenges, any changes in working arrangements should be implemented carefully with prior consultation. Disciplining staff who refuse to attend work will require sensitive handling too.

Michael Burd and James Davies, Lewis Silkin LLP solicitors - e-mail: employment@lewissilkin.com

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