Small business owners offered advice on dealing with swine flu
The business support and lobby group this week put together free guidance for the owners of small businesses as the spread of the virus started to escalate – and believes Facebook and Twitter could help firms to function in the midst of a major outbreak.
With the number of confirmed swine flu cases reaching 7,500 in the UK and health bosses expecting 100,000 new cases to be diagnosed every day by the end of August, the FPB is calling for all smaller businesses to make sure they are properly prepared.
The predicted pandemic could see a quarter of Britain’s workforce hit by sickness at any one time and the FPB is warning that this could have a devastating effect on smaller employers, potentially costing millions of pounds and putting some companies out of business.
As a result, the not-for-profit organisation has issued small firms with a series of tips on how to prepare. The specialist advice was drawn up with the help of partner firm Qdos Consulting Limited, which provides members of the FPB with a 24-hour legal advice helpline.
The swine flu advice include tips for small business to try and minimise face-to-face contact during a pandemic by operating over the internet or telephone wherever possible. The FPB says videolinks and teleconferencing can be utilised as a way of making sure trading goes ahead as normal while making sure employees are exposed to fewer potentially infected people.
The FPB is also urging businesses to look into the possibility of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter as a way of communicating and sharing information between employees. The web-based sites could prove invaluable if a businesses’ own internal company systems fail and cannot be fixed due to staff absence.
They can also be used from any computer with access to the internet, which could prove useful if employees are kept away from the office.
Other key points of the advice include:
• Any staff member who is sick with a suspected or confirmed case of swine flu should be told to stay at home. However, employees are not legally entitled to stay away from work simply out of fear of contracting the virus. The FPB can provide further legal advice on the issue for any business owners who may need it.
• Widespread swine flu could lead to emergency redundancies but the FPB is reminding employers that they would still need to follow full legal procedures if they were forced to shed staff, even in an outbreak of pandemic proportions.
• Small businesses should have a contingency plan in place which would see a team of vital staff members set up to steer the organisation through a pandemic. The FPB also advises making sure employees are fully trained to cover for their colleagues in case of absence and is warning that small firms may have to pay for temporary staff in order to cover key roles.
Commenting on the release of the advice, the FPB’s Director of Finance and Administration, Nick Palin, said: “As a business owner, the more that you can put into preparing before a pandemic happens, the better placed your business will be to survive it unscathed.
“I think swine flu is a serious issue and one which needs some careful consideration by small businesses as, with few employees, they could be particularly badly affected.”
For a free copy of the full advice available, business owners can contact the FPB’s membership department on 0845 612 6266.