Recently reports suggested that contractors who had contracted swine flu could potentially be putting others at risk by refusing to take time off work. However, as the country gears up for the expected second wave of the H1N1 virus, the government has predicted that large organisations could experience sickness levels of 12% of the workforce at any one time. This could impact on contractors receiving payment on time, particularly if payroll staff are taken ill, as there is a reliance on staff creating a BACS file each Wednesday to ensure that contractors receive their funds on a Friday.

Research carried out by law firm DLA Piper has found that “very few” recruitment agencies have contingency plans in place to ensure continuity of payments should their payroll staff take time off sick. The survey, which questioned 400 organisations, found that most firms stated that they were planning to review their contingency plans due to the expected resurgence of swine flu. However, more than half of those surveyed had not communicated planned contingencies to their staff or suppliers.

Head of employment at DLA Piper UK, Tim Marshall said that many employers had failed to look beyond their staff contracting the virus. He commented: “Managing the absence of employees who need to care for dependents may prove to be one of the biggest issues of all, particularly if local authorities…close schools.”

Contingency systems provider, Giant Precision have stated: “With the government predicting that swine fly will confine swathes of the workforce to their sick beds this autumn, depleted departments could be reduced to a skeleton staff and struggle to cope with their normal workload.”

Matthew Brown from the organisation continued: “A contingency system should as a minimum be capable of taking raw payroll data from the agency and processing this data through to BACS or CHAPS payments to workers.”

The Professional Contractors Group reported that none of its members had raised any issue regarding the effect of swine flu, however, their head of public affairs Simon McVicker said that he planned to discuss this further with IT recruiters.

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