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Scaremongering over SARS unhelpful

Scaremongering over SARS unhelpful

Employers are warned against scare mongering in the public arena over SARS.

Some lawyers appear to be treading a fine line in representing the legal rights and obligations of both employers and employees in connection with SARS, the Employers & Manufacturers Association (Northern) says.

"We strongly disagree with some reported legal opinions on what employers should be doing to protect themselves and their employees," said Paul Jarvie, Manager of Occupational Health & Safety for the EMA.

"It's true employers are required to provide a safe place of work based on actual or potential causes or sources of harm. But this requires them to act on actual information provided by medical providers which, in the case of SARS, is both the Ministry of Health and OSH.

"Both these sources of information are taking a robust yet informed position regarding the risks.

"There is only a risk from SARS if there is a known and confirmed carrier, and only then if the contact is of a close nature. There is little confirmed data on the mechanisms that may spread the virus in the community.

"An employee returning from a country with the SARS virus is not to be presumed to be a carrier; they may have been far from any infected site.

"The issue of employees suing employers is not helpful in situations like these. Arguably, this extreme is being put forward to play on emotions to drum up business.

"The Dept of Labour has a draft SARS policy under development and the

recommendations contained in that document would be considered by OSH and the courts to be reasonable and practicable steps to take in the circumstances.

"Both employees and employers have an obligation to act in a responsible way. Over reacting and creating fear in the market place is neither responsible nor helpful."

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