North American employers taking steps to protect staff from coronavirus

Amid growing concern over the coronavirus, North American employers are taking steps to protect their employees, according to a new survey by Willis Towers Watson.

The initiatives include launching employee communication campaigns, reviewing human resources policies, expanding the number of employees working remotely and restricting travel to and from countries deemed to be high risk.

“The coronavirus is a wake-up call for companies to review their strategies, policies and procedures about safeguarding employees, customers and operations in this and future epidemics,” said Jeff Levin-Scherz, co-leader of the North American health management practice at Willis Towers Watson, in a press release. “From boosting communication to increasing access to hand sanitizers, employers need a plan of action to protect their workers and reduce the risk of business interruption.”

Read: How should Canadian employers be responding to the coronavirus?

The survey, which polled 158 employers, found more than half (59 per cent) have deployed communications campaigns geared toward preventing spread of the disease, while 44 per cent have increased access to hand sanitizers for their North American employees and 38 per cent are reviewing and or/revising HR policies and procedures. However, only five per cent are evaluating and/or reserving for potential increased liabilities in their health plans.

Employers are also restricting travel, with 63 per cent of respondents saying they’ve cancelled planned trips to select countries for their North American employees who travel for business. Some 55 per cent said they’re encouraging virtual meetings to decrease travel. And 47 per cent have cancelled planned conferences in select countries.

In addition, 46 per cent of surveyed organizations are implementing remote working.

Read: 47% of Canadian employees work remotely: survey