HR teams must craft support systems for disasters

Thursday, May 23rd, 2024 06:40 | By
Kenya Red Cross personnel on a rescue mission after several houses were marooned by flood waters. Heavy rains caused flooding across Kenya in April 2024. PHOTO/X (@KenyaRedCross)

In the last two months, Kenya has experienced unprecedented adverse weather conditions that have led to unexpected disasters. Floods and mudslides hit many parts of the country, destroyinh homes, school infrastructure and roads.

So significant was the impact in some areas that some people could not report to work. This situation left me asking: what is the role of employers and employees in the event such unfortunate incidents happen?

Well, disasters can significantly impact the productivity of many organisations and the well-being of their employees. With the impact disasters can cause, employers and employees need to be aware that they could happen and be prepared. Employers need to accord employees appropriate support as required. In the same breath, affected employees need to be alive to the responsibility they have to their employer and to themselves to have a source of income during and after the disaster.

According to the International Association of Human Resources Information Management (IAHRIM) employees, through their human resource departments, have a role to mitigate the uncertainty that is inevitable following a workplace crisis.

This means that as an HR professional, understanding the challenges that employers and employees face during and after events is crucial for crafting effective support systems and ensuring a swift recovery.

The first thing to do is to check the immediate challenges, which can include displacement and commuting woes, work-life strains, infrastructure disruption, health and safety concerns, as well as supply chain disruptions where organisations rely heavily on supplies to and from stakeholders.

In such a case, employers have a duty of care for their employees and may consider offering alternatives such as remote work or reporting to an off-site station.

The employer may also contact or get assistance from local authorities, who can be made aware of the affected staff and help with evacuations, repatriation or rehabilitation as required. Employers can also activate their back-to-work emotional support programmes or counselling – they need to have counsellors or psychologists that employees can reach when the need arises. This should not be used to victimise employees. Incentives such as salary advances can help support employees if they require additional financial assistance to aid in their resettlement.

Employers should also ensure that the organisation and its property are insured. There are several reputable insurance companies who provide solutions to limit or eliminate the monetary impact of a disaster.

Other key initiatives include staff welfare programmes such as funeral support. These can provide emotional support to bereaved employees. Having a data backup or recovery site off-premise and developing a disaster risk recovery plan is critical for every organisation.

By approaching the situation with compassion and practical support, employers can help employees navigate through the challenges posed by the disasters and demonstrate their commitment to their well-being.

For their part, employees have the responsibility to communicate their absence, informing their employer if they will be in a situation where they will not be able to report to work. Employees should also report the accurate account of their situation.

For employees who would prefer to work remotely, it will be crucial for them to offer alternative arrangements on how they would deliver on their targets. Notably, employees should not abuse the privilege, such as skipping work. Employers and employees should build their ARK (Awareness/Response/Keep Safe) and prepare for disasters.

— The writer is an HR practitioner at the ICT Authority and a Disaster Management Consultant

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