BenefitsEngaged Workforce

Lessons Learned—the Hard Way

Following Hurricane Katrina, companies should re-examine their HR disaster recovery plan to ensure resumption of regular operations.

by Susan Rosenbleeth

As I wrote this in late September, reports of devastation to lives, property, and businesses wrought by Katrina and Rita dominated the media. Federal and state governments were issuing a flurry of legislation and regulatory relief. Individuals and businesses generously provided a helping hand.

Now in November, is it time to contemplate the long-term impact of these events on human resources and employee-benefit support systems? Given the aftermath of these events, should HR professionals and service providers be taking notes and planning for the future?

Most companies and service providers have disaster recovery plans in place that address computer system backups, alternative work sites, staff contact information, facilities management, and insurance coverage. However, confronted with Katrina and Rita, many companies are grappling with questions such as:

Will we continue to pay non-working employees affected by these hurricanes, and if so, for how long?

Should we offer periods of paid or unpaid leave to employees who ask for time to provide assistance to family or aid organizations?

Will we implement all or some of the relaxed defined contribution plan account access measures the Congress or IRS has authorized?

Will the actions that our government and the company take for this emergency establish precedence for future
disaster relief situations?

Just as all levels of government have learned important lessons in disaster preparedness and response from Katrina and Rita, so, too, should HR professionals. Companies can respond more rapidly if they have researched the issues, established guidelines, and communicated those policies to employees in advance of an emergency.

The chart outlines five issues you may want to address in your HR emergency planning policy:

As you consider improvements to your human resources policies and guidelines, you should review the ReadyBusiness section on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) web site: http://www.ready.gov/ and the Emergency Preparedness and Business Continuity Standard, http://www.nfpa.org/PDF/nfpa1600.pdf?src=nfpa (NFPA 1600). The American National Standards Institute and the Department of Homeland Security have endorsed NFPA 1600, which the National Fire Protection Association developed.

Finally, I would like to commend the many companies in our industry that during the hurricanes provided emergency call centers for the Red Cross and state and local governments and the front line of assistance for displaced employees.

Tags: Benefits, Engaged Workforce

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