Business Continuity Plan: Is HR Prepared to Handle a Pandemic?


The H1N1 Swine Flu was first announced in mid-April after the first outbreak was discovered in Mexico.  This is the 3rd pandemic in the past 10 years.  SARS occurred in 2003 and the avian flu (H5N1) from Hong Kong in 1997.

As we have learned in the recent past a pandemic (or even a threat of one) posses significant disruption to business activities.  Employees may be sick from the influenza, taking care of affected family members, or staying home for fear of getting infected.  Businesses need to take proactive steps to prepare for business continuity and the health and welfare of employees.

Key HR Issues

Preparing a robust business continuity plan (BCP) is particularly complex.  Top HR issues to address include:

  • Crisis Leadership Team
  • Employee Communications
  • Workforce Plans:  critical skills, contingency backup
  • HR Policies:  travel restrictions, sick leave, working remotely, and preventive health measures.

Starting Your Plan

The level of detail required depends on the complexity of your organization.  Items to include are:

  • Identify essential/critical business operations
  • Determine how an emergency might impact these operations
  • List actions plans for business continuation in case of disruption

Continuity Preparation

Once a business continuity plan is documented begin with a dry-run of your plan.  Identify gaps areas and refine the BCP.

  • Crisis Management Team – identify and train your leadership team
  • Resources – ensure there is available equipment and tools to meet emergency needs
  • Personnel and Work Flow – train your staff on emergency responses.  Ensure the emergency contact list (phone tree) is updated.

Alternative Work Options

  • Working Remotely – ensure essential staff have internet access, computer systems, telephone, mobile communications to conduct business
  • Flexible Work Options – employees may need to commute off-peak hours and/or work from home to minimize human contact

Human Resource Policies

  • Sick Leave – Review and communicate the company’s sick leave policy.  Does your current policy address the issues of extended leaves.
  • Insurance Plans – Employees will want to know how company insurance policy covers against pandemic.


Slow the spread of the virus by:

    • ensure surfaces are cleaned frequently
    • provide hand sanitizers in key workspace locations
    • minimize large-team face-to-face meetings
    • discourage the congregation of people in areas such as lunch room

Provide adequate training by:

    • training all employees on the company’s BCP
    • ensure each employee understand their respective role

Help people stay informed by

    • provide frequent updates on the pandemic status
    • communicating the company’s actions and response to the pandemic


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