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The global economy we operate in continues to expand and change rapidly, so we must remain diligent in our preparation to manage unexpected emergencies. Catastrophes occur in the form of natural disasters like a hurricane, earthquake, tsunami, or flood; human-made disasters like war, riot, civil unrest, or terrorism; or biological outbreaks. Regardless of the type, organizations need to be prepared to put the health and welfare of employees and their families first.
The most recent and ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak highlights the need for companies to have a clear plan in place with identified triggers to set it in motion, particularly companies with employees living and working outside of their home country. Many companies found themselves unsure of the best actions to take when COVID-19 was identified in late 2019. Information was initially staggered, and social media spread misinformation rapidly. Employees living and working abroad rely on their organization to rise above the emotion of the moment and lead them to safety.
Business continuity plans typically address the potential breakdown in infrastructure or supply chain during an emergency, but fail to consider a displaced workforce. Workforce readiness plans address scenarios in which the workforce is displaced or unable to perform their work as usual.
The COVID-19 outbreak is forcing companies without workforce readiness plans to make real-time decisions about what costs to cover or allowances to pay for evacuated assignees. What should companies provide to employees or family members (or even pets) who could not evacuate? How will compensation and benefits be adjusted? How do you rebuild a workforce after the crisis is over?
Mercer’s Business Responses to the COVID-19 Outbreak Survey Findings provided a snapshot in February 2020 of how companies were approaching the current COVID-19 outbreak. At the time the survey was taken, the outbreak was mostly contained within China. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers this is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation. Given the spread of COVID-19, Mercer now has created a participation site to collect information on an ongoing basis regarding companies’ responses to the crisis.
For additional information, please visit Mercer’s microsite and Stay Informed on Coronavirus as the situation evolves.