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Small firms warned to prepare for rise in flu numbers

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Small employers have been offered a series of tips on how best to cope with any large increase in swine flu cases.

The Forum of Private Business (FPB) said that, with UK health bosses expecting 100,000 new cases to be diagnosed every day by the end of August, smaller businesses need to make sure they are properly prepared.

Should the worst happen, health tips for smaller firms include minimising face-to-face contact during a pandemic by operating over the internet or telephone wherever possible.

The FPB said that videolinks and teleconferencing could be used to ensure that business goes ahead as normal while also ensuring employees are exposed to fewer potentially infected people.

Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter could likewise play an important part in allowing employees to communicate and share information.

Any member of staff who is sick with a suspected or confirmed case of swine flu should be told to stay at home, the FPB said. But the business group went on to point out that employees are not legally entitled to stay away from work simply out of fear of contracting the virus.

Small businesses should have contingency plans in place so that a team of vital staff members could be set up to steer the business through any possible pandemic.

Additionally, the FPB advised that employees should be fully trained to cover for their colleagues in case of absence and reminded small firms that they may have to pay for temporary staff in order to cover key roles.

Nick Palin, the FPB’s director of finance and administration, said: “As a business owner, the more that you can put into preparing before a pandemic happens, the better placed your business will be to survive it unscathed.

“I think swine flu is a serious issue and one which needs some careful consideration by small businesses as, with few employees, they could be particularly badly affected.”