Federal guidelines urge employers to plan for upcoming influenza season
The leaders of the Department of Commerce, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Homeland Security issued guidance to help employers prepare for the impact the seasonal flu and H1N1 may have on their employees and operations.
According to the report, employers' plans should address points such as encouraging employees with flu-like symptoms or illness to stay home, operating with reduced staffing, and possibly allowing employees who are at higher risk of serious medical complications from infection to work from home. Gary Locke, secretary of the DOC, said businesses must set the right tone in the workplace by implementing commonsense measures to reduce the risk of spreading the flu.
"Making the right decisions will not only improve public health, it also has the potential to protect economic productivity," he said. "Employees who are sick and stay home will not spread the flu in the workplace."
The guidance also recommended employers:
- Review their policies. "One of the most important things that employers can do is to make sure their human resources and leave policies are flexible and follow public health guidance," said Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the HHS.
Employers should try to make sick leave policies flexible for workers who may have to stay home with ill family members or if a child's school is closed, the CDC said.
- Consider offering vaccines. Employers should consider offering vaccine against seasonal flu and encourage employees to be vaccinated against H1N1.
- Limit meetings and travel. Employers also might cancel nonessential face-to-face meetings and travel, and space employees farther apart, the report said. Employees who are at higher risk for flu complications might be allowed to work from home or stay home if the flu is severe.
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September 28, 2009
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