Nestlé Tells Global Staff to Halt International Travel, Curtail Domestic Trips

Date : 02/26/2020 @ 7:05PM
Source : Dow Jones News
Stock : Nestle SA (PK) (NSRGY)
Quote : 104.54  2.38 (2.33%) @ 10:20PM

Nestlé Tells Global Staff to Halt International Travel, Curtail Domestic Trips

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By Saabira Chaudhuri 

LONDON -- Nestlé SA has asked hundreds of thousands of its world-wide employees to temporarily postpone all overseas business travel -- an extreme measure by one of the world's largest multinationals, taken as companies try to navigate the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

Switzerland-based Nestlé -- which employs about 291,000 people and sells products in 187 countries -- has asked workers to suspend all international business travel until March 15, according to a spokeswoman.

The maker of Nescafe coffee and Purina pet food is asking staff to curtail domestic travel, too, and to substitute trips with phone calls or video chats where possible. Employees typically travel for conferences, meetings and supplier visits, among other reasons.

"We take our responsibility for our employees and to the communities in which we operate seriously," said the spokeswoman.

If employees need to travel for business-critical reasons, she said, that will require permission from one of Nestlé's most senior executives -- one of the consumer-goods giant's heads of markets or an executive board member.

For weeks, companies have been curtailing or forbidding travel of employees to areas directly affected by the virus, including China and more recently Italy. Many companies have also required workers traveling from those affected areas to quarantine themselves -- working from home or otherwise remotely -- for up to 14 days. That is typically the time during which symptoms of the flulike virus become apparent.

Nestlé's move is one of the first by a major multinational to restrict all of its employees from flying -- anywhere.

As international companies grapple with falling sales in China amid widespread store closures and supply-chain headaches as factories remain idle, they have also had to wrestle with how best to protect employees. In countries seriously affected by the outbreaks, many companies have insisted staff stay and work from home. Limiting travel to and from affected areas has also been one of the most widespread options so far.

Nestlé said its Italy base, in Milan, is continuing to operate. The company is encouraging employees to work from home where possible. Workers living in areas designated high-risk by Italian authorities have been asked not to come to the office. Nestlé has 10 factories in Italy making chocolate and other products and, so far, all are still operational.

Nestlé's announcement comes after U.S. federal health authorities on Tuesday said they expected a wider spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. and were preparing for a potential pandemic, calling on businesses, schools and communities to brace themselves and plan for a potential outbreak. If the virus spreads more widely, experts say efforts would shift to strategies such as closing schools, canceling mass gatherings and requiring employees to work from home.

On Wednesday, Unilever PLC, a Nestlé rival, said it, too, was restricting employee travel to business-critical trips.

Chevron Corp. asked workers at its Canary Wharf office in London to work from home Wednesday, as the company awaited results from coronavirus tests. A worker at the U.S. oil giant's trading operations had flulike symptoms earlier in the week, prompting a decision to ask staff at that office to telecommute, according to a person familiar with the matter. Some 300 employees work at Chevron's Canary Wharf office.

The company provided coronavirus testing for the employee with symptoms. Normally, test results are available within 24 hours. However, the person said, the Chevron employee's results have been delayed as a result of a rising number of people in London who are also receiving tests.

Meanwhile, Chevron is "taking precautionary measures to reduce risk of exposure," a company spokeswoman said.

Benoit Faucon in London contributed to this article.

Write to Saabira Chaudhuri at saabira.chaudhuri@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 26, 2020 13:50 ET (18:50 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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