Protecting employees, ensuring business continuity and managing impact on relocation
- 1. Protect yourself
- 2. Common business protocols
- 3. Steps for impacted expats
- 4. Crown’s business continuity plan
- 5. Minimizing contact with others
On January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the novel coronavirus (aka 2019-nCov) to be a public health emergency on an international level. Many activities that are part of everyday life for our colleagues, clients and business partners based across China and Hong Kong are currently restricted or on hold.
Crown is a global company headquartered in Hong Kong, giving us a unique local view along with our global perspective as we closely monitor this very fluid situation. This update is being provided for our employees and their families, our clients and their impacted mobile populations and the expatriate communities that we support. We draw from information we are gathering from a variety of sources, including our global corporate clients, our network of supplier partners, Crown’s extensive team on the ground in China, across the APAC region, along with internal Crown experts around the globe.
We encourage you to continue to communicate your questions and to share experiences and best practices with your Crown team and industry peers as the situation evolves, to better ensure that your concerns are addressed. Crown will provide updates along the way.
Basic advice is to avoid panic and use common sense steps, as you would when trying to avoid a common cold. The World Health Organization (WHO) offers the following measures:
- Stay home if you are sick. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water and if that isn’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and throw the tissue away afterwards.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Face masks are often used in densely populated, public locations, such as on the bus, subway, malls or grocery stores; not all face masks are alike; if you use a mask make sure it is a N95 rated mask.
- Educate yourself, your family and your team about common preventive measures.
A growing number of companies are putting in place general rules and guidelines related to travel, facilities, communication and employee education. Some of the travel rules are determined by emerging government restrictions in response to the situation.
- Increasing travel restrictions into and out of China. Non-essential travel to the region is prohibited by some companies. Companies have set up warnings on their designated travel booking sites. When business travel into the impacted region is deemed necessary, approval from senior leaders is required.
- Companies are restricting travel between provinces within China.
- Keeping offices and facilities in the Greater China Region clean and hygienic and make necessary arrangements including flexible working hours and/or work from home for employees with roles that allow for that situation.
- Shipping masks and other protection to offices in China and Greater China where there is a shortage of supplies.
- Educating employees to follow guidelines provided by local health authorities to prevent the spread of the virus.
- Formalizing coordination within companies between Global Security and Safety and Risk Management teams with representatives from HR, Corporate Communications, Facilities and Executive Leadership to establish a response team and ensure business continuity, employee safety and clarity in actions being taken and communicated.
Crown’s clients are sharing the steps that they are taking to support their international assignees and Global Mobility stakeholders.
- Communication with impacted populations is critical to managing the uncertainty and anxiety that can often accompany this type of situation. Communication should be provided on a regular basis and made easy to understand. Determining the best approach for the communication (i.e., Yammer, Slack, Teams, Outlook, WeChat, etc.) will help make information streamlined and predictable.
- Encourage all assignees and third-country nationals to register at their local home country embassies/foreign offices/etc. to make sure that they are accounted for, added to any communication lists, and easily located if needed.
- Create lists of all employees by country and relevant contact details. This will ensure communication lists are accurate. For expat populations, a full list of employees and dependents in impacted locations will facilitate evacuations should the need arise.
- Indefinite postponement of assignments into China/APAC for employees with February and March start dates.
- 14-day quarantine for all employees after leaving China. Employees should work from home and not be permitted to enter offices or attend meetings with colleagues or clients upon repatriation.
- Evaluate options for expat populations on a case-by-case basis, including providing an option to return to the home location for a period of time. Consult with immigration and tax providers for any potential impact on decisions.
- Partner with external organizations like International SOS (ISOS) to share regular updates and recommendations with your mobile populations.
- Reassess and communicate to HR, Global Mobility teams and partners your company’s protocols for emergency, voluntary and involuntary evacuations.
- There is no single approach that we are seeing companies take regarding the decision to evacuate expats currently based in China or the region. This decision is often a personal one for the employee and their families. Companies do need to decide what kind of support they will provide the employee during a temporary evacuation or extended home leave.
- Some companies are using their standard repatriation provisions for company-driven repatriations and paying for flight change fees and standard home leave for employees not able to return to China after Chinese New Year due to school closures, travel restrictions or personal preference.
- Some companies have decided to support voluntary evacuations for the dependent families of their expat employees in China, but not for the employee. In cases where the company’s China offices remain open, this decision is based on a desire to treat expats and local employees the same.
- Those employees who find themselves outside of Greater China for home leave or Chinese New Year holidays have been asked to extend their leave and work remotely from wherever they are.
- For expats requesting an early termination of their assignment or the decision to temporarily return to their home country or an alternative location, it is important to account for visa, passport, tax implications and home country travel restrictions as part of the decision-making process.
More information available from Crown
- Contact a member of Crown’s Consulting Services team or your local Crown representative for policy questions.
- Contact a member of Crown’s Immigration team for immigration questions.
Crown’s primary concern will always be the safety and well-being of our employees, customers and business partners. Basic personal hygiene measures are being reinforced with our employees and external service providers to minimize potential influenza transmission.
Like most of our clients, Crown’s business activities across Mainland and Greater China require compliance with government enforced safety measures, restrictions and requirements. Due to some organizational directives from our corporate clients, we are seeing a decrease in the need for services based on travel restrictions and varying factors. Having said that, Crown has its resources in place to conduct “business as usual” with the following preventative measures.
- Restrict workplace entry of people with influenza symptoms.
- Practice good personal hygiene and workplace cleaning habits.
- Increase social distancing (e.g. enable work from home options, avoid face-to-face contact).
- Manage any staff who become ill at work.
- Manage staff who travel overseas.
As the situation is fluid, we will continually reassess and keep individuals and their organizations informed of any changes. We expect there may be slight delays at ports due to the impact of the Chinese New Year holiday extension and reduced staffing levels.
Notices are being posted at all Crown facility entry points, advising staff and visitors not to enter if they have influenza symptoms. Employees are advised not to come to work when they are feeling unwell, particularly if they are exhibiting any symptoms. Workers who become ill will be instructed to stay at home until symptoms are resolved. We will ensure that any ill employees have completed the required quarantine period and are healthy before allowing them to return to work.
In addition, the following precautions have been recommended:
- Avoiding meeting people face-to-face – use the telephone, email and chat platforms as much as possible – even when participants are in the same building.
- Avoiding any unnecessary travel and canceling or postponing non-essential meetings.
- Where possible, arrange for employees to work from home or work variable hours to avoid crowding at the workplace.
- Avoiding public transport where possible: walk, cycle, drive a car or go early or late to avoid rush hour crowding on public transport.
- Encouraging the bringing of lunch and eating away from others. Avoid the cafeteria and crowded restaurants. Introduction of staggered lunchtimes so numbers of people in the lunch room are reduced.
- Not congregating in tearooms or other areas where people socialize.
- If a face-to-face meeting with people is unavoidable, minimize the meeting time, choose a large meeting room and sit at least one meter away from each other if possible. Avoid shaking hands. Consider holding meetings in the open air.
- Encouraging staff to avoid recreational or other leisure classes and meetings where they might come into contact with infectious people.
If you’d like further advice on anything contained in this update, please contact your nearest expert.