--> Gill Blog: HSBC Projects Avian Flu Absenteeism Rates to top 50%

Gill Blog

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

HSBC Projects Avian Flu Absenteeism Rates to top 50%

Seems as though the initial estimates we discussed in our December webcast on economic effects of a pandemic outbreak were conservative. During that event, we projected employee absenteeism to be anywhere between 25 and 40%. HSBC has gone even further. In a report released yesterday, the world's third largest bank sees this number exceeding 50%:
HSBC, the world's third largest bank, is estimating that up to half of its staff could fall ill or be absent from work at the peak of the next flu pandemic, as Europe began to come to terms with the first human cases of the H5N1 bird flu virus on its doorstep.

The 50 per cent figure is double the rate forecast in draft guidelines for businesses being drawn up by the World Health Organisation. They will advise planning for 25 per cent absence, and the HSBC estimate is the most explicit warning yet that governments may be underestimating possible disruption.

As we start hearing about more cases sprouting up in Europe, we are bound to read more about not only how these numbers might be expected to change, but about what companies are doing to prepare. Indeed, the economic effects are where the discussion is moving - a noticeable change in position from earlier when it seemed like a far-away problem.

The magnitude of these numbers cannot be minimized as the article points out:
The figures are important as a rare public insight into estimates made by a top company – one that has considerable experience, given its activities across 77 countries including those in Asia and Canada affected by the Sars crisis in 2003.

They stand in sharp contrast to official calculations, with the UK government recently downgrading its estimate to an average of 8 per cent of the workforce absent at any one time and 25 per cent cumulatively throughout the pandemic.

Only time will tell what the next phases of this outbreak might be.


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