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PRESS INFORMATION - press enquiries to Sam Dabbs on 07050 108985

DWF404/07
20 February 2007


The outbreak of bird flu at the premises of poultry firm Bernard Matthews has highlighted the need for businesses to carry out contingency planning, says law firm DWF.

An estimated one in five employers still has no proper business continuity plan (BCP) in place. However DWF warns they are not only putting their survival at stake, but could also be breaching their duty of care under health and safety rules.

Kirsty Rogers, partner with DWF says: “Businesses in today's highly competitive environment are judged on their ability to provide a service at all times. Organisations of all sizes need to have a plan in place so that, in the event that disaster strikes, they can return to normal operations as quickly as possible.

“In today’s society, a continuity plan is not just about protecting the business but also about safeguarding employees. Under health and safety rules, companies and individuals within them can be held responsible for their inability to cope with or recover from a disaster. All organisations have a duty of care and not having a BCP potentially violates that.”

Bird flu, terrorism, floods and environmental disasters are all ongoing threats, however employers should also plan for more common emergency situations such as workplace violence, power or equipment failure and sabotage.

Rogers says the first step is to carry out a risk assessment to identify potential threats, then look at ways to deal with them. Areas which should be considered include:

 internal and external communications - how communications will take place if the phone networks are down

• managing the media – deciding who would be the spokesperson and what information would be given out

• IT recovery – what back-up facilities are in place and what are the arrangements for protecting customers’ data?

• financial concerns – arrangements regarding cheque books, credit cards and company stationery

• personnel – staff may have to be relocated or, in the worst case scenario, may need medical assistance

• security – how documents and equipment would be safeguarded in the event that the premises are severely damaged

• basic procedures – such as evacuating employees, reception of the emergency services, rendezvous points and central emergency numbers.

Rogers says that support for the BCP must come from the top, but consultation with staff is also essential as they may need to change their working practices in response to a disaster. To ensure they understand the plan, training should be given. The plan should also be reviewed regularly to keep it up to date.

She adds: “No-one likes to anticipate the worst but if a crisis does occur, having a business continuity plan in place will enable you to resume normal operations as quickly as possible. Being well prepared will also help avert bad publicity and project a more positive image of your company to clients, the authorities and the general public.”

ENDS

Notes to editors
DWF is one of the fastest growing regional law firms in the UK and has recently merged with Ricksons. With over 800 people based in Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Preston, DWF provides a range of services grouped under the following practice areas:

Corporate
Banking & Finance
Litigation
Real Estate
People
Insurance

DWF has developed extensive sector-specific expertise in a number of areas including: automotive, education, food and resourcing. Further information on DWF is available via www.dwf.co.uk

Media enquiries to:
Sam Dabbs
Dabbs PR & Marketing
T: 01939 210503 or 07050 108985
E: sam@dabbsprm.com

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