Please note:  The Government of Canada still (at February 26/2020) considers the public health risk associated with Covid-19 to be low.     

See for updates.

Pandemics are:

  • the worldwide spread of a new disease,
  • unpredictable but recurring events that can significantly affect health, communities and economies worldwide.

“Business continuity” means ensuring that essential business functions can survive a natural disaster, technological failure, human error, or other disruption. Pandemic flu (and/or other contagious diseases) demands a different set of continuity assumptions since it will be widely dispersed geographically and potentially arrive in waves that could last several months at a time. [1]

Planning and preparation are essential to mitigating associated risks and impacts of a pandemic, and to manage the response and recovery.[2]  Unlike natural disasters, where any disruption to business service provision is likely to be hardware related, disruption to business operations in the event of a pandemic will be mainly human-resource oriented.

“Businesses should plan for up to 50 percent staff absences for periods of about two weeks at the height of a severe pandemic wave, and lower levels of staff absence for a few weeks either side of the peak. Overall a pandemic wave may last about eight weeks.”[3]

Employee absences can be due to illness, the fear of contracting the illness on public transit, in public spaces, at work, and how family members’ workplaces, daycares, and schools are responding.

Communicate with Employees

It is not uncommon for people to react with fear.  The following are ways to help people manage stress, paranoia, and panic.

Provide Practical Information

  • The disease and its symptoms (e.g. similar to the flu, difficulty breathing, pneumonia in both lungs)
  • What your company is doing to prepare
  • Sources for obtaining reliable information (Canadian, Provincial and Local Health Authorities, World Health Organization)
  • Benefit plans including information about paid and unpaid leave time
  • Employment Insurance benefits related to unpaid time

Encourage Wellness

  • Encourage people to stay home if they are sick, regardless of the cause of the illness
  • Post reminders about frequent thorough handwashing
  • Provide alcohol-based hand sanitizers
  • Ensure people are regularly using sanitizing cleaners on their phones, keyboards, etc. and all other commonly touched surfaces in the workplace
  • Encourage the usual cold/flu season hygiene practices related to coughing, sneezing, etc.

Covid-19 and Your Location

  • Closely monitor what is happening with Covid-19 and what public health authorities are recommending and provide employees with information as things change
  • Prepare employees for the possibility of having to work at home should there be a local outbreak
    • Check your remote access systems to ensure adequate security and the capability for significant numbers of staff accessing the systems
    • Ensure employees know how to access the systems and have the equipment required
    • Provide reminders about confidentiality related to your business, customers/clients and suppliers’ information when working at home
  • Ensure people know how and to whom they need to communicate if they become sick.
  • Let employees know if a co-worker is confirmed to have Covid-19 and of the potential exposure (maintain the afflicted employee’s privacy rights)
  • Provide the most up to date health system information about action that needs to be taken when exposed
  • Let your key customers/clients and suppliers know what you are doing and what they can expect from you

If you do not have a Business Continuity Plan, please see the resources noted in Footnote 3 for information and a planning template.  If you need assistance with preparing a plan and communicating with employees please get in touch.

[1] Government of Canada Public Health Coronavirus disease (Covid-19): Outbreak Update     Government of Canada Protecting Your Business. Emergency and Disaster Planning – Business Development Bank of Canada

[2]World Health Organization  Building capacity for pandemic response;jsessionid=686AB11AEF5793C77F2518ADF31F679E?sequence=1

 [3]  Pandemic Planning Tool Kit – Ontario Chamber of Commerce

Best Practice Guideline, for Workplace Health & Safety During Pandemic Influenza.  Government of Alberta

Are You Prepared for the Possibility of the COVID-19 Pandemic?