Oral Health Group

Is Your Dental Office Prepared for a Business Interruption Due to a Pandemic?

October 13, 2014
by sandie

Every day we are hearing more about the spread of the Ebola Virus and Enterovirus D-68. You may not think that a pandemic will affect your business, but it is better to hope for the best and prepare for the worst case scenario to maintain the continuity of your business and protect your employees as well as your patients.

From a risk management perspective, business continuity plans help ensure that a business survives. But when it comes to an influenza pandemic, employers also have a societal responsibility to create an effective plan. Because influenza spreads exclusively through human-to-human contact, and because much of this contact occurs at work, planning can help prevent the spread of disease among employees, and help to control its spread within society as a whole.

Your business needs to adopt flexible policies and practices to accommodate employees affected by a pandemic influenza. Such accommodations may include establishing alternative work arrangements and/or temporarily modifying existing policies and practices related to leaves of absence, short term disability benefits, and employee assistance programs. Amendments to your existing policies and/or practices necessitated by a pandemic will be temporary and will expire at the end of the pandemic influenza, unless employees are otherwise notified. It is important to notify your employees of such expiration by posting a notice in a conspicuous location and, where possible, disseminating a notice electronically. The best location to post the notice of expiration would be on your Health and Safety bulletin board.

The Dentist or Manager is responsible for recommending and communicating temporary amendments to existing human resources policies. You should also determine whether an employee’s request for a leave and/or accommodation is reasonable and whether further information is required to verify the legitimacy of an employee’s request in accordance with the Human Rights Code and determine what accommodations are appropriate on a case by case basis. The Dentist/Manager should establish a system for employees to report their status during a pandemic, including what information they are required to communicate to the dentist and when they should not report to work.

Employees are responsible to promptly report the need for a leave of absence or accommodations arising from a pandemic influenza to the Dentist or Manager. In addition he/she must cooperate with the Dentist or Manager in the accommodation process including, providing regular status updates and further information where requested. The Dentist or Manager must maintain up-to-date information and recommendations from local public health authorities.

To limit the spread of pandemic influenza, your dental office may be asked or required to provide public health officials with information about employees’ close or direct contacts. When a pandemic declaration is made by public health authorities, your office should ask all employees to provide written consent to disclose close and/or direct contact information to public health authorities upon request. Such consent is not mandatory. If the Dentist is requested to provide employee close and/or direct contact information to public health authorities, but is not required to do so by law, the Dentist may provide the requested information only if the employee has given written consent to do so.


During the pandemic period employees who are exhibiting symptoms of influenza should not come to work, and if they are at work, the Dentist must have the ability to send them home. Leave provisions, in addition to regular Short Term Disability/Sick Pay benefits, will be in accordance with the provisions of the Employment Standards Act, 2000, or any other legislation or regulation issued in response to an outbreak or pandemic.

The Dentist/Manager is responsible for managing and overseeing the absences of employees who are ill with pandemic influenza or who have been in close contact with ill employees, and managing their safe return to work. Each employee should also be responsible for notifying the dentist or manager if they have been in close contact with an individual who is, or is suspected, of being ill with pandemic influenza.

If the employee reports illness by phone or email, the Dentist/Manager should contact the employee by phone and ask if they are exhibiting any of the symptoms listed on the questionnaire. For a sample Influenza questionnaire, please send an email to sandie@dentalofficeconsulting.com with the subject line “influenza questionnaire.” If some or all of the employee’s symptoms correspond with those on the questionnaire, the Dentist/Manager should:

• Inform the employee that he or she must stay at home until the symptoms abate.
• Advise the employee to immediately contact a health professional.
• Complete a brief report noting the employee’s condition and any staff and/or patients the employee has been in contact with.

If an employee reports to work exhibiting symptoms of illness:
• The employee’s condition will be identified by their response to the questionnaire.
• The employee should immediately be provided with an approved surgical mask and should put it on.
• The employee should immediately leave work and contact a health professional. The employee should avoid public transport when leaving work.
• The employee’s manager should be informed that the employee has left work.
• The employee’s work station should be cleaned and disinfected

If an employee exhibits symptoms while on the job
• The employee, or someone who observes that the employee is exhibiting symptoms of influenza at work, must contact the Dentist/Manager
• The employee should immediately be provided with an approved surgical mask and should put it on.
• The employee should immediately leave work and contact a health professional. The employee should try to avoid public transport when leaving work.
• All contacts of the employee within your company should be advised that they may have been infected and be asked to go home and await further instructions.
• The employee’s manager should be informed that the employee has left work.
• The employee’s work station should be cleaned and disinfected.

It is better to be safe than sorry. A declared pandemic can have a devastating effect on your business as well as your patients and employees. Protect your business by having policies and procedures in place that enable you to manage the contact, control and monitoring during a pandemic. Pandemic planning policies and procedures are critical components of your health and safety program. For more information on Health and Safety Policies and Procedures for Dental Offices, feel free to contact sandie@dentalofficeconsulting.com.