Firms not panicking over bird flu

Less than ten percent of companies have taken action to curtail employee business travel to parts of the world affected by the avian influenza, or bird flu.The survey shows that more than half of the 195 companies polled in November 2005 have taken steps to brief their employee travelers on the risks of avian influenza, including issuing medical alerts and information fact sheets, conducting employee wellness briefings, and posting on corporate intranet sites.

The results are from a survey conducted by ORC Worldwide, a premier human resources data and consulting company.

While a quarter of the companies are tracking travel into affected areas, most have developed or are developing plans to evacuate employees from affected countries should conditions warrant—nearly 40 percent have plans in place and 15 percent are developing them.

However, 27 percent plan to handle the issue on a case-by-case basis, while approximately 19 percent do not have an evacuation program.

Companies that have taken steps to curtail travel to affected areas have taken a variety of actions, such as increasing the use of conference calls, vaccinating employees who must travel, issuing travel warnings, and stepping up monitoring activities.

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“Most companies we surveyed are taking a prudent, rational approach to this threat,” said Robert J. Freedman, president and chief executive officer of ORC Worldwide.

“They are educating their employees and watching the situation closely, but are unlikely to take action until a travel advisory is issued by the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, SOS, or their government agencies.”

Among those companies with evacuation plans for expatriate employees on assignment in affected areas, approximately 35 percent would evacuate employees to their home country, and approximately 28 percent would evacuate to the nearest “safe” country.

If a company makes the decision not to evacuate but the assignee requests to leave, participants indicated they would allow the assignee to leave, some paying all expenses, with others paying none.

In other companies, however, this could be deemed as a request for a transfer, repatriation, or termination of an assignment.

Some companies would offer the opportunity for an early home leave trip or grant additional home leave visits.

For additional information on ORC Worldwide’s avian influenza survey, including detailed results and participating companies, please visit—http://www.orcworldwide.com/surveys/avianflu.html
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