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Study Notes Many Firms Unprepared for H1N1 Outbreak

December 23, 2009
Related Topics: Health and Wellness, Policies and Procedures, Workforce Planning, Latest News
A Mercer study on how employers are handling the challenges of the H1N1 influenza virus found that more than half of the respondents have local contingency plans in place, but only 25 percent of those respondents have integrated contingency plans in the event of an outbreak.

According to the study, Mercer found that employers worldwide are primarily concerned about hygiene and prevention, health information and advice, education and communication, and absence management with regard to H1N1.

Mercer’s survey asked what companies are doing to plan, communicate and minimize their risk from the virus. The survey included responses from nearly 1,000 organizations of all sizes in the U.S., Latin America, Canada, Asia and Europe.

“Contingency plans are crucial and should define how to maximize health, safety and productivity in the workplace in the event of a pandemic,” said Russell Robbins, principal and senior consultant for New York-based Mercer’s health and benefits consulting business. “Companies that do not have contingency plans in place should develop them now, as it will be too late when an epidemic or disaster strikes later.”

According to the survey, 94 percent of the companies with a plan distributed hand sanitizers as part of efforts to limit an H1N1 outbreak, while 64 percent started more frequent or intensive office cleaning, and 54 percent started providing more H1N1 educational sessions.

Further, the survey found that 95 percent of global employers have up-to-date contact information for their employees in the event of illness, as well as up-to-date client information in order to notify them in case of business interruption. By contrast, only one-third of organizations worldwide have issued guidance to their employees about the message that should be given to clients and suppliers should the business be affected by the spread of the virus.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the H1N1 flu between April and November has caused more than 9,800 deaths and required the hospitalization of more than 213,000 people.

Filed by Jeff Casale of Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail

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