Checklist for Developing An Effective Pandemic Response Plan

It’s reasonable – some might even say responsible – to be concerned about a global pandemic that spreads disease and death around the world, but not only is panic counterproductive, it is potentially harmful to business operations. Norris McLaughlin encourages business leaders to be proactive about developing an emergency response plan and putting it into action.

As part of our Coronavirus (COVID-19) Preparedness Response Center, we have provided created a checklist for businesses of all sizes to use as a guide for developing a “pandemic action plan” that satisfies OSHA and EEOC compliance, as recommended by the CDC. However, before you enact any pandemic response plan, we encourage all business leaders to consider the wide range of issues that impact the continuity of their business operations. An action plan that fails to account for every potential business implication is one that doesn’t work.

Employee/Staffing Considerations

  • Outline your plan to protect employees.
  • Guide on how to identify pandemic illness symptoms.
  • Outline your corporate policies regarding paid leave in the event of a request/requirement for quarantine.
  • Outline corporate policies for responding to employees who need to care for infected family members.
  • Outline corporate policies for the use of paid time off or sick leave for employees who contract the illness.
  • Outline your corporate policies regarding paid leave in the event of a positive test result.
  • Outline your internal communications plan for a positive test result.
  • Identify who has access to technology to work from home.
  • Outline remote staffing plans for critical business functions (use “critical” vs. “essential” because everyone is essential)
  • Outline and educate staff on remote access to files and information required to operate.
  • Provide direction to employees regarding business travel policy.
  • Identify measures to ensure medical safety for those who will may still be required to travel.

Business Operations Considerations

  • Identify which departments must continue running during adapted operations and which could “go dark” in a worst-case scenario.
  • Outline corporate policies for visitors to the office, including plans to promote the policy and notify visitors.
  • Outline the circumstances and decision tree for closing an office/location.
  • Provide details for how you will communicate office closures to employees, customers, and vendors.
  • Once a decision to close an office/location is made, communicate that closure to stakeholders, including the expected duration.
  • Provide details for how you will decontaminate offices in the event of a positive test result.
  • Provide direction on whether or when to postpone meetings, events, or travel.
  • Assess IT department capabilities (including noting deficiencies) as additional employees or your business operations work remotely for a prolonged period.
  • Outline plans for securing and assigning equipment and software technologies for remote operations.
  • Outline plans to revise HVAC and energy consumption for closed offices.
  • Outline plans to pause or divert mail, including subscription mail (newspapers, magazines, periodicals, etc.).
  • Outline plans to notify government oversight agencies/authorities for your industry in the event of office closures or cessation of business operations.

Financial/Accounting Considerations

  • Outline plans for collecting and processing payments in the event of office closure (NOTE: USPS mail forwarding takes 2 to 4 weeks).
  • Identify how long your business can survive without proactive sales efforts.
  • Outline plans for continuity of accounts payable and payroll during an office closure.
  • Outline contingencies for utilization of lines of credit.
  • Outline corporate policies for paying your employees and for how long in the event of office closure and employees not working. Make sure these policies comply with local, state, and federal laws related to this context.

Customer/Client Considerations

  • Clarify your policy for if/how you will notify customers if an employee is diagnosed.
  • Outline plans for engaging and connecting with customers if employees are out sick or if the office is closed.
  • Outline contingencies for delivering on contracts if the office is closed or there is a disruption in your supply chain.
  • Ensure that your supply contracts include force majeure clauses defined to include interruption due to pandemic events, which will be critical to mitigating liability if you must default.
  • Outline a response plan for customers affected by the pandemic that do not pay your invoice(s) on time.
  • Provide direction on how you plan to assist your customers in addressing the pandemic.

Supply Chain Considerations

  • Identify all mission-critical vendors and confirm they have a pandemic response plan.
  • Outline a plan for communicating with mission-critical vendors to discuss their pandemic response plans.
  • Identify contingencies for any supplies or products typically source from overseas, focusing on supplies that originate from geographies identified as the origin of the pandemic.
  • Outline contingency plans when/if you experience delays in the delivery of materials and products that affect production.
  • Identify a list of alternate suppliers and specify the conditions under which they should be called upon.

NOTE: This checklist has been designed to help guide you through some of the most important considerations for your business. It should not be considered all-encompassing and should be supplemented with additional issues and considerations not included here based on the nature of your business. If you have doubts about what those may be, we encourage you to seek counsel from one of our experienced attorneys. For more information on how a global pandemic may affect your business operations, visit our Coronavirus Thought Leadership Connection.

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