In a statement which advises business on how best to plan for the pandemic, the HSE said this high rate of absenteeism is “likely to have a significant impact in economic activity”.
It added that the 15 per cent figure (which accounts for both the ill and those taking care of them) should be at the core of all business continuity planning in an attempt to cope with the pandemic.
“Acknowledging that a significant problem is coming down the track for businesses is the first critical step,” said HSE Communications Director Paul Connors.
“Planning for the pandemic is key and adopting a common sense approach is recommended to minimise the impact on the business community”
Mr Connors urged those businesses who do not yet have a continuity plan in place to initiate such planning without any delay.
“The pandemic is currently gaining a foothold in this country and it will be a number of weeks before it is widespread,” he warned. “Now is the time to plan for this challenge in order to protect your staff and your business.”
As well as absenteeism, businesses would have to anticipate disruption in its supply chains, an increased strain on human resources, a drop in demand for goods/services and potential insurance and cash flow difficulties.
Waterford businesses should appoint both a ‘pandemic co-ordinator’ and a deputy who will “communicate with staff in order to help protect staff and reduce the impact on productivity levels”.
Areas such as containment advice, hygiene, cross staff training and workforce management are among the critical areas that the co-ordinator ought to address with colleagues.
The cross-business approach to tackling the pandemic involves the co-operation of IBEC, ISME, the Small Firms Association (SFA) and Chambers Ireland.
The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment website (www.entemp.ie) now features a document entitled ‘Business Continuity Planning – Responding to an Influenza Pandemic’ which includes advice to businesses planning for the pandemic.
Information on swine flu is available via the HSE’s dedicated 24-hour Information Line (Freephone 1800-94-11-00) and on its influenza pages online at www.hse.ie.