On January 29, the Financial Post reported on Canadian retailers and other businesses who have started eyeing contingency plans in case of a coronavirus outbreak.
Professors Ali Asgary and Jack Rozdilsky, from the Disaster and Emergency Management program, noted that there are many business hubs in Toronto and these companies will face difficulties controlling fluxes in the market.
“Business continuity is not regulated, so unless a national emergency was declared, some of these regulatory measures would be difficult,” Asgary said.
Prof. Asgary went on to tell the Post that the crisis is especially challenging for smaller businesses that might not even have a business continuity plan in place. “They can’t do as much to control the situation,” Asgary said. “But they can minimize the impact to themselves.”
Prof. Rozdilsky told the Post that continuity plans are common for large businesses. “In the same way a city or region would have an emergency manager who would be the person who would deal with snowstorms or floods, businesses have people who function in similar roles,” he said.
With only three presumptive cases in Canada right now it wouldn’t be the time to implement parts of the continuity plan yet, but Prof. Rozdilsky said “companies should start thinking about how they can temporarily change their business structure if the virus were to spread.”
“Think about how you can spread people apart. In other words, how can people be allowed to do their job more remotely? What is the minimum staffing that you need to have physically on the worksite?” he said.
He also recommended looking into policies around sick leave and sick days. “When employees are sick, if there’s a policy in place that discourages workers from staying at home when they’re sick because they’re worried about job security or pay, they would feel compelled to come to work because they would be penalized by management policies in place,” according to Rozdilsky.