Ebola poses difficult challenges for employers

Debbie Lovewell-Tuck

HR and global mobility professionals cannot ignore the issue and potentially fatal impact of Ebola on their workforces as the deadly virus disease continues to spread across the globe. 

As new cases are reported in the western world, particularly among hospital workers and healthcare professionals, employers must consider how far their duty of care for their staff extends.

Repatriating employees from the worst-affected regions may be a priority, but employers must first consider what they will do with these individuals in the short term due to the 21-day incubation period required for those exposed to the disease. For example, if organisations relocate these staff, be it for the interim period or permanently, should their colleagues in the new location be informed about their arrival and if yes, how?

It is vital that employers check the terms of the international private medical insurance cover in place for expatriates. Key issues for employers to consider are whether their policy covers the evacuation and repatriation of expats and, crucially, which medical treatments are covered should the worst happen and an employee is diagnosed with the disease. And if staff are not covered for treatment, how far should their employer go in helping to source and fund the specialist care that they require, particularly if they have contracted the disease while in the line of duty?

Employers should also consider support for employees in the event of a colleague’s death as a result of the disease. Providing access to some form of counselling, perhaps through an employee assistance programme, and promoting the benefit’s availability to staff may be a consideration. 

These are not easy challenges for employers to tackle, but the issue requires their immediate attention and, if necessary, action to help protect their workforce. 


Debbie Lovewell-Tuck
Deputy Editor
Employee Benefits