Travel agencies must be prepared for staff absences if there is a major swine flu outbreak.

ABTA has advised its members to have contingency procedures in place in case the World Health Organization pandemic alert is raised from phase five to phase six.

Head of communications Casia Zajac said agency bosses should have cover in place for absent workers and have the technology for staff to work from home.

“Agents should ask themselves – ‘if my key staff are off will I still have a business’?” she said.

She also said agents should read up on basic hygiene advice so they can provide reassurance to customers.

The Forum of Small Business advised companies not to go to the doctor to request a sick note. “Staff who may be infected should not visit their GP as this could spread the virus,” said a spokeswoman.

Meanwhile, Audley Travel marketing manager Jim Millward said the company had learned lessons from the SARS outbreak in 2003.

“We already have broad contingency plans in place in terms of planning practical things such as allowing people to work from home and knowing how to work on with skeleton staff,” he said.

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