Monday, September 14, 2009

Swine Flu and Small Businesses

The Department of Homeland Security just released a set of guidelines meant to aid small businesses in establishing plans that would allow them to maintain operations in the event that their employees became ill with the flu. DHS urges small businesses to prepare for the worst case scenario, in which many employees are ill and remain at home for up to five days. While some small businesses would be able to continue operations with employees working at home, many others, especially those involved in manufacturing, would not.

Most small business owners interviewed did not seem terribly concerned. Many thought that they could shift remaining workers to cover sick workers' duties or hire temporary workers if necessary. DHS also recommended that each business name a "H1N1 coordinator" whose responsibilities are to review sick leave policies and ensure that those who are ill keep their germs away from those who are healthy.

In light of Sara Cody's discussion today, it seems almost funny that DHS recommends small businesses try to institute additional, possibly ineffective infrastructural measures when those established by the federal government are frequently unsuccessful themselves. The recommendations also highlight the wide ranging effects of disease. With huge existing problems in the economy and half of the US's private sector employees working in small businesses, it makes sense that the government is concerned with the potential negative economic effects of absenteeism due to flu. Whether creating an H1N1 coordinator in each small business is the best way to deal with this fear, however, remains to be seen.

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