Pandemic Preparedness for Business – COVID-19

COVID-19 │
Pandemic Preparedness for Business

In addition to the work of the health care industry when a pandemic hits, businesses play a critical role in protecting the health and safety of employees, and limiting the negative impact on the economy and communities. They also need to have business continuity plans that will minimize the impact on the business itself and facilitate a speedy resumption of activities if the business has been forced to scale back or close during the pandemic. Preparedness, not panic, is the best way to mitigate the risks posed by a COVID-19 pandemic to the Canadian economy and our citizens. Should COVID-19 escalate in Canada, some of the things businesses need to plan for include:

      • Staff absences due to a number of reasons (personal illness, ill family members, looking after children
        if schools close, feeling of safety being at home etc.). In some cases employees may themselves
        elect to stay home; in other circumstances the government may authorize or require them to do so.
      • Disruption to essential services like information, telecommunications, financial services, energy
        supply, and logistics;
      •  Disruption to supply of necessary materials or contractors;
      •  A major increase or decrease in demand for products and services;
      •  Cancellation or disruption of travel and cross-border movement of people and goods;
      •  Cancellation of public meetings or gatherings like sports events, concerts or religious services;
      •  Impact on the trade status of Canada, or of our trading partners; and
        Increased public fear that causes citizens to avoid public places, including front line retail and tourist –related, restaurants and leisure businesses.

To help businesses prepare for and manage through a potential COVID-19 escalation in Canada, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce developed the following brief guide. It is designed to assist business planning and continuity efforts. This tool includes links to the some of the most relevant and credible information, best practice tools and resources. We will continue to update this information on our website www.chamber.ca

Things to Consider
Develop/update business
continuity and crisis plans (See
section below for resources,
tools and templates)
 What is the process for decision-making during times of crisis?
 How are you identifying and safeguarding your company’s essential corporate records and documents?
 What are the critical services, positions and skills required to keep your business running?
 How and when are you communicating to internal and external stakeholders and managing the flow of information?
 What is your plan for recovery?
Plan for the potential impact of
the pandemic on your
business. (See section below
for resources, tools and
 What is the risk of the pandemic to your employees, partners, suppliers and customers?
 Who are the members of the pandemic response team and what are their roles and responsibilities?
 What are the triggers and procedures for activating and terminating the pandemic response plan?
 What is the decision-making process related to the pandemic and the execution of the business continuity plan?
 Who are your most essential employees and what are the other critical inputs (e.g. raw materials, suppliers, sub-contractor services/products, and logistics) required to maintain business operations by location and function during a pandemic?
 How are you planning for significant staff absences?
 Do you have the tools and technology in place to enable staff to work remotely?
 Have you trained and prepared your workforce and your backup resources?
 If you were forced to close your doors for two weeks or more, do you have access to a line of credit that will cover ongoing expenses until you can reopen and your cash flow resumes?
 What is your plan for scenarios that are likely to result in an increase or decrease in demand for your products and/or services during a pandemic (e.g. effect of restriction on mass gatherings, need for hygiene supplies)?
 How are you assessing and managing the potential impact of a pandemic on your financials using multiple possible scenarios?
 What is the impact of the pandemic on domestic and international business travel?
 What are your sources of relevant, credible up-to-date, pandemic information from federal, provincial, and local public health, emergency management, and other sources?
 Is your emergency communications plan up to date and are key roles and responsibilities outlined and communicated? This plan should include identification of key contacts (with back-ups), chain of communications (including suppliers and customers), and processes for tracking and communicating business and employee status.
 What is your current travel policy and does it need to be updated?
 Has your plan been tested?
Plan for the potential impact of
the pandemic on your people.
(See sections below for
resources, tools and
 What steps can you be taking to protect the health and safety of your staff and visitors to your workplace?
 What are the infection control practices in your workplace?
 What protective and preventative equipment and tools do you need to put in place to prevent the spread of infection?
 How and how often are you communicating with employees, customers and suppliers?
 How are you monitoring and managing employee fear, anxiety, rumours and misinformation?
 Do you have platforms (e.g. hotlines, website etc.) in place for communicating pandemic status and actions to employees, vendors, customers, etc. and responding to their questions?
 Are there guidelines and practices you can modify or put in place to curtail direct contact with the public if necessary?
 Do your employee leave policies need to updated to reflect the unique circumstances of a pandemic? Are they compliant with your provincial labour regulations?
 Do you have a policy in place for flexible work sites and work hours?
 Do you have a policy in place for employees who may, or think they may have been exposed to the virus?
 What healthcare services are available to employees?
 What mental health services could be provided during a pandemic and possible quarantine?
 Are there employees and customers with special needs that need to be accommodated?
Take advantage of existing tools, templates and best practices.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety has created a business continuity guide, which includes things to think about in light of a pandemic or other crisis situations.

Useful templates:
A few years ago, Calgary’s downtown flooded. The Calgary Chamber was in the frey of this crisis. Out of bad comes good, and the chamber created an award-winning emergency preparedness kit.
Centre for Disease Control
Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Prevention Services

Information and Advice: 
Deloitte has numerous tools on their web site:
World Health Organization planning document:

Use credible and reliable sources of information to monitor and assess the situation and refine your
plans accordingly.

For health updates within Canada:
British Columbia
Quebec – English
Quebec – French
New Brunswick
Northwest Territories
Nova Scotia
Newfoundland and Labrador
Prince Edward Island

The World Health Organization has international information and updates:

Posted on March 17, 2020

Pandemic Preparedness Guide created by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce

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