Coronavirus: Preparing your business for impact

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Coronavirus: Preparing your business for impact

Note: The coronavirus outbreak is a fast-developing situation, and local health agencies should be consulted for the latest news and directives.

A novel coronavirus continues to cause an outbreak of respiratory illness across the globe. The virus has been named SARS-CoV-2, and the disease it causes has been named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The virus originated in Wuhan, China, in December 2019 and, to date, has spread internationally. The disease continues to be closely monitored by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and other key health organizations around the world.

Due to the sustained global impacts of COVID-19, Lockton's experts continue to address key considerations for employers:

  • Property or business interruption
  • Employee benefits and rights
  • Employee health and welfare

Property or business interruption

Employers should create a proactive plan to be able to respond to the outbreak in a reasonable time. The CDC has created an interim guide for businesses to plan and respond to COVID-19. Suggestions include:

  • Developing or evaluating their business continuity program to address potential impact on their business operations and supply chain. This includes reviewing essential functions and being prepared to change business practices if needed, such as identifying alternate suppliers or suspending operations in certain geographical locations.
  • Planning for increased employee absences and implementing plans to continue essential business functions.

Employee benefits and rights

The CDC has reminded employers to prevent stigma and discrimination in the workplace. It is advised that businesses “do not make determinations of risk based on race or country of origin.” Stigmatization could prevent people from seeking health care if they display symptoms, and confidentiality should be maintained for those diagnosed with COVID-19.

Employers should also prepare for an increased number of absences and review human resources policies to ensure practices are consistent with public health recommendations and state and federal workplace laws.

Employee health and welfare

The CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has released guidance for businesses to prevent workplace exposures. Recommended strategies for businesses to safeguard the health and welfare of their employees include:

  • Encouraging employees who are sick, or display symptoms, to stay home.
  • Ensuring that your sick leave policies are flexible and offer telecommuting options, if available.
  • Advising employees to take steps prior to traveling, including checking the CDC's Travelers' Health Notices website and familiarizing themselves with company policy for obtaining medical care overseas.
  • Exploring practices such as flexible work sites and work hours, and cross-training employees in essential roles to minimize workplace disruption.
  • Encouraging good hygiene practices that including washing hands, using surface disinfectants and hand sanitizers, and adopting a "no hand shake" policy.

COVID-19 has already affected many companies and organizations around the world both directly and indirectly. Companies face risks to their employees as well as to their revenues. By staying informed on the latest developments, developing or activating contingency plans, educating employees to prevent the spread and infection of the disease, and using available insurance, companies can reduce the impact of this outbreak. Additional information and resources from Lockton about business interruption, employer obligations, liability and risk mitigation can be found on the Lockton Coronavirus Advisory Practice page.