Workplace pandemic influenza guidance

In a pandemic, there are a number of factors that may impact on your ability to keep your business running, so it is important to consider these as part of your business continuity planning.

Impact on the workforce

New Zealand uses a standard model to consider the potential impact of an influenza pandemic. The modelling predicts that in a severe pandemic, we may see up to 40 percent of the population becoming ill over an eight week period.

This means that, at its peak, up to a third of New Zealand’s population may be ill or recovering from illness (New Zealand Influenza Pandemic Plan 2017, page 6).

Influenza pandemics often have multiple waves of illness, so the impact may be felt for several months or more.

In a severe pandemic we may experience:

  • high numbers of workers away due to illness or caring for dependants
  • significant pressure on the health system
  • disruption to supplies of goods and services (due to disruption in supply chain, or the impact of the pandemic on suppliers of these goods and services)
  • national and international travel restrictions
  • restrictions on public gatherings
  • restrictions on, or disruption to public transport
  • closure of schools
  • social distancing measures put in place (for example: increasing distance between workstations, encouraging people to keep a distance of at least a metre from others, working from home).

What you should plan for

It is important to consider these factors and plan for how they may affect your ability to run your business.

Areas to plan for include:

  • How you will maintain your essential services or activities with high numbers of staff absence over an extended period.
  • What essential goods and services you rely on and how you will manage any disruptions to supply.
  • How you can implement alternative work practices in your workplace (for example, social distancing measures, remote working capability).
  • What services will need additional support to meet a surge in demand (for example, IT support services).
  • How you can protect your workers and reduce the risk of spread of the pandemic influenza virus in your workplace.

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