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Baker & McKenzie International published a Client Alert entitled Getting Ahead of the Coronavirus Outbreak: A Checklist for Multinational Employers.
The Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has been declared a global emergency by the World Health Organization, as the outbreak continues to spread outside China. It raises challenging issues for employers, particularly those that have multiple locations, provide a variety of services, and employ a global workforce that may travel routinely for business. For employers who have lived through prior global pandemics, now is the time to revisit preparedness protocol and re-evaluate the same for changes in locations of workforces and evolution in local laws. For those who are new to the scene, planning for and responding to a potential pandemic requires that multinational employers focus on three key issues: (1) how to maintain a safe workplace; (2) how to maintain operations in the face of a pandemic; and (3) how to minimize exposure to potential liabilities that may result.
Are you prepared? Here is a checklist for multinational employers designed to help.
1 Maintaining a safe workplace
An employer’s first priority is to protect the health and safety of its workforce. Employers should take the following specific steps to reduce employee exposure to the virus, and to minimize the likelihood of its spread:
1.1 Find the workforce,
1.2 Appoint a coordinator,
1.3 Understand employer obligations in each affected jurisdiction (which will change),
1.4 Get managers on board,
1.5 Address business travel concerns head on,
1.6 Share information from the relevant health authorities on how to prevent the spread of the virus.
2 Maintaining operations in the face of a pandemic
Employers must plan to support the business with a greatly reduced or limited workforce in certain locations. Most large companies have contingency plans to deal with emergencies such as loss of electricity, utilities, or transportation access to their facility. In the case of a bona fide pandemic, however, employers may be faced with problems that literally stretch across the business spectrum. Utilities may shut down or reduce operation, the workforce may be unable or unwilling to enter a facility, and local or national government actions may greatly restrict business options to maintain operations. Employers should:
2.1 Identify the key positions and functions essential to sustain business continuity,
2.2 Identify contact information for key suppliers, utilities, and local and national governments,
2.3 Consider employment law implications of a shutdown, and of asking certain employees in the affected areas to work remotely if feasible to reduce the potential transmission of the virus.
3 Minimize exposure to potential liabilities that may result
3.1 Review all legal obligations,
3.2 Review all vendor and client contracts,
3.3 Review insurance coverage.
The key message for any employer is to be prepared to act swiftly. Utilize public health and government resources for information, contact your health and safety offices and vendors and run preparedness and procedures by legal counsel to ensure compliance with the law while protecting the company’s workforces, wherever they may be. This is a stressful time for employees in the affected areas. Ensuring that your employees have a point of contact and being ready to address their questions and concerns in their specific jurisdictions can go a long way to minimize the disruptions to your operations.
Baker & McKenzie International, Client Alert, Getting Ahead of the Coronavirus Outbreak: A Checklist for Multinational Employers (02.2020)
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