HR & Management

SME owners must protect their staff from natural and political disasters

5 min read

16 October 2018

Features Editor, Real Business

If your SME is unprepared when political or natural disaster strikes, the results could damage the health of your business, your employer reputation and even the lives of your employees.

When we think of preparing for the worst, it’s always the dramatic things, like natural disasters or political coups. In our mind’s eye, they often occur in far-flung countries. Sitting here in the cosy and apparently more stable West, we imagine that society doesn’t need to anticipate disaster quite as much.

But as we’re living in an increasingly globalised and interconnected world, we must wake up, smell the coffee, and realise that political and natural disasters can happen anywhere – and at any time.

Factors such as global terrorism prove that no society, and most importantly for us, no work environment is exempt from threats to the safety of its staff.

And for SMEs without the big budgets and international office outposts of their bigger corporate cousins, preparing contingency plans, including allocating funding for insurance preparations, seem like a cost too far for something that appears very unlikely to happen.

Natural and political disasters happen in the UK –  and cost businesses 

The Somerset Levels region experienced severe flooding in 2014.

Closer to home, we saw the Somerset Floods disaster of 2014, where countless homes and businesses were wiped out in this rural region of the UK, in which the social and economic after-effects lasted years.

Victims who spoke to the media about the impact the disaster had on their businesses reported that it cost them over £1.2m in lost revenues, and this was only 71 business owners operating in a rural and relatively unwealthy county of over half a million people.

There is also political disaster brewing in our midst, including the diplomatic and economic uncertainties around Brexit that could affect members of SME staff who are European citizens and also relations with a company’s European trading partners, if they have them.

So SME owners need to take a step back and start thinking seriously about preparing their company for possible ‘disasters’ and protecting their staff in the process.

According to findings produced by The Health Insurance Group, Only 31% of companies have a specific policy in place to evacuate or repatriate their staff in the event of a political or natural disaster.

“It’s not as easy to compartmentalise the world as it once was. Political and natural disasters can happen anywhere in the world and at any time, and it’s sensible for employers to have plans in place.” – Sarah Dennis, The Health Insurance Group

Perhaps, unsurprisingly, larger companies are better prepared for ‘disaster’ than smaller companies, with 41% of large corporates having a policy in place to evacuate staff in case of political and natural disaster, compared to just 24% of SMEs.

Expanding SMEs need to protect employees, and senior staff will appreciate it most

As it’s the job of SMEs to look forward, grow and accelerate, if they are looking to expand overseas in the near future, they must allocate vital resources to put policies in place that will support and protect their staff in the case of an emergency.

It’s also great PR for small companies if they do have such provisions put in place.

Looking like you’re prepared will help paint a picture of your company as a caring and supportive organisation that values the entire wellbeing of its workforce.

– This can be used as a great ‘USP’ during interview stages for more senior employees, who may have families, and want to be certain that their wellbeing will be protected as caregivers with additional personal responsibilities.

“Some employers may worry that it would be expensive, but it’s a lot cheaper to have insurance in place than try and deal with an emergency without it. The value is unquestionable.” – Sarah Dennis, The Health Insurance Group

One of a business’s most fundamental aims to be professional, and this extends to the way a business owner, and the business at large, treats, supports and cares for its employees.

So start with the most sensible investment, make sure your employees are physically safe –  and can be protected, should the worst happen.