If a pandemic breaks out, half of the world's multinational companies will likely find it difficult to deal with the crisis as they have no policies in place, according to ECA International which surveyed 189 companies.
"That half of the companies we surveyed have no policy in place is rather surprising," said Lee Quane, ECA International’s Regional Director – Asia.
Quane explains that with cross-border travelling increasing, there is a potential for transmission around the world.
"Multinational organisations have a responsibility to be prepared for such events and every good business continuity plan should have measures in place to deal with this kind of risk," adds Quane.
The two most common measures in place among companies that do have a policy are the provision of a safe working environment (83%) and a business continuity plan should people no longer be able to travel to work (78%).
Three quarters of companies with a policy said they would return any expatriate staff, if possible, and/or their family in the event of a pandemic.
Only a very small number of companies would increase hardship allowances (4%) or provide a new exceptional allowance (5%) in these circumstances.
"In a pandemic situation, there will be issues specific to expatriates," Quane continued.
According to Quane, global mobility teams need to ensure that these are also addressed within any crisis policy so that everyone is prepared and responsibilities clear.
"Considerations include how to deal with the expatriate’s family, knowing who to contact and how to reach people far from HQ as well as defining how much more care, if any, is reasonable to give to expatriates than to locally employed staff," Quane adds.
Of the companies surveyed with staff in West Africa, 74% were monitoring the situation but not yet doing anything. Almost 20% were restricting movement in and out of the region, and 23% within the region.
ECA recommends that IHR engage with the business continuity team to ensure there is a plan and that it takes expatriates into consideration; monitor government warnings and feedback from people on the ground; and work with a specialist provider such as International SOS to help with policy or advise on case-by-case scenarios.