SHRM Poll Asks HR Professionals if the Workplace is Prepared for the H1N1 Virus

Nov 5, 2009
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Alexandria, Va. − Though the majority of U.S.-based workplaces are already prepared or actively preparing for the impact of an H1N1 virus outbreak, more need to get on board in creating a disaster preparedness response plan that reaches beyond flu vaccination, according to a poll by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

In SHRM poll, “The H1N1 Virus – How Prepared is Your Workplace?,” 64 percent of HR professionals report their organization has an emergency plan in place while 36 percent do not.

“We encourage those without an emergency plan to follow the guidance of government health agencies and to consider the consequences of an H1N1 virus striking your employees and customers,” said Steve Miranda, chief global HR and content integration officer at SHRM.

SHRM also launched a portal offering H1N1 tips and advice via the SHRM Online Web site. Much of the information is generally available while some access is reserved for SHRM members.

Poll data show that 84 percent of HR professionals said their company is monitoring the H1N1 virus situation by following guidance from government organizations. Still, the poll raises concerns that some businesses may underestimate the operational impact of an H1N1 epidemic – 64 percent of HR professionals said the H1N1 epidemic would present a “moderate negative impact” on business while 33 percent responded “no negative impact.” Only three percent cited a “large negative impact.”

“The spread of H1N1 and its impact continue to be an unfolding and evolving story for U.S. workplaces,” said Miranda. “Our greatest concern is for those companies that still don’t have a plan. We encourage them to adopt a response plan now and be ready to implement it.”

“To provide HR professionals with clear, concise and relevant advice that will guide them through the impact of a potential pandemic, SHRM worked with the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA),” said Miranda.

The SHRM poll provides a snapshot of HR plans that factor H1N1-related employee communications, prevention and wellness initiatives, business travel, and sick leave policies. Highlights include:

  • H1N1 vaccines – Once stock is made available, 39 percent of HR professionals say their company will offer to employees a free H1N1 vaccination while 18 percent will offer it to employees who pay. Fifteen percent report their company will offer the vaccine to employee family members who pay and seven percent will offer it for free. Regarding at risk employees, seven percent of companies will offer it for free and six percent will do so for those who pay.
  • Seasonal flu vaccines – Nearly six in 10 – 59 percent – of HR professionals say their company is already offering free seasonal flu vaccines while 32 percent are offering them to employees who pay.
  • Employee Communications – The overwhelming majority (89 percent) of HR professionals polled say their company is actively educating employees in flu prevention measures and distributing information. Seventy-five percent have developed an H1N1 employee communications strategy.
  • Prevention and wellness initiatives – Widely embraced is prevention with 84 percent of HR professionals reporting that their company is making available hand sanitizer, surface disinfectants, and masks. Nearly one quarter – 73 percent – say frequent now is the cleaning of common areas such as bathrooms, door handles, elevator buttons, cafeterias, and pantries.
  • Travel considerations – So far, 35 percent of HR professionals say their company is implementing video and/or audio conferencing alternatives to business travel during flu season while 26 percent are restricting nonessential employee business travel in general.
  • Sick Leave – HR professionals say companies will largely utilize leave policies already in place – paid time off, sick, vacation – to address employee absence due to this year’s flu season. Only 20 percent of companies will require a medical statement to verify that the sick employee is recovered and able to return to work.

The SHRM poll highlighting current and intended HR response to the 2009 fall/winter flu season surveyed 413 randomly selected SHRM members during late September.

Roughly 40 percent of respondents work in medium-size companies (100 to 499 employees) while 33 percent work for large companies (500-plus employees), and 27 percent in small companies (fewer than 100 employees). The majority – 68 percent – are in U.S. based operations and the remaining 32 percent work for multinational operations.

Fifty percent of the polled HR professionals work in privately owned for-profit companies and 20 percent work in publicly owned for-profit, followed by 18 percent and 12 percent in the nonprofit and government sectors, respectively.

Regionally, 39 percent of respondents are based in the Midwest followed by 26 percent in the South, 21 percent in the West, and 14 percent in the Northeast.

Reporters may visit SHRM Online to view the survey: http://www.shrm.org/Research/SurveyFindings/Articles/Pages/TheH1N1VirusHowprepared.aspx.

SHRM partnership initiatives to combat H1N1 virus

In additional to partnering with the CDC, CIDRAP and OSHA in flu prevention and response outreach, SHRM also sits on the Preventative Health Advisory Board (PHAB), an initiative of The Clorox Company comprised of thought leaders and specialists in the areas of education and child care, office and human resource management, healthcare, infectious disease, and widespread disease preparedness.

  • PHAB members help to distribute the free Flu Preparedness & Prevention Educational Kit available at: http://www.cloroxprofessional.com/H1N1.
  • SHRM also partners with the Community Health Charities in H1N1 prevention and response by participating in the Health Matters at Work™ video podcast series.
  • The Health Matters at Work three-part series on H1N1 will debut Nov. 10, 2009. To view the video podcast offering H1N1 prevention and response tips, please visit: http://www.healthmattersatwork.org/influenza.

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About the Society for Human Resource Management

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest association devoted to human resource management. Representing more than 250,000 members in over 140 countries, the Society serves the needs of HR professionals and advances the interests of the HR profession. Founded in 1948, SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the United States and subsidiary offices in China and India. Visit SHRM Online at www.shrm.org.

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