Employers Should Prepare Now for Flu Season

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, anticipating a wider and more serious spread of the H1N1 flu this season, has released new guidelines (available at http://www.flu.gov/plan/workplaceplanning/guidance.html) to help businesses and employers prepare now for the impact seasonal and H1N1 flu could have on employers, employees and operations. 

The CDC recommends that employers take the following actions now:

  • Review or establish a flexible influenza pandemic plan and involve your employees in developing and reviewing your plan;
  • Conduct a focused discussion or exercise using your plan, to find out ahead of time whether the plan has gaps or problems that need to be corrected before flu season;
  • Have an understanding of your organization’s normal seasonal absenteeism rates and know how to monitor your personnel for any unusual increases in absenteeism through the fall and winter.
  • Engage state and local health department to confirm channels of communication and methods for dissemination of local outbreak information;
  • Allow sick workers to stay home without fear of losing their jobs;
  • Develop other flexible leave policies to allow workers to stay home to care for sick family members or for children if schools dismiss students or child care programs close;
  • Share your influenza pandemic plan with employees and explain what human resources policies, workplace and leave flexibilities, and pay and benefits will be available to them;
  • Share best practices with other businesses in your communities (especially those in your supply chain), chambers of commerce, and associations to improve community response efforts; and
  • Add a “button” to your company Web page or employee Web sites so employees can access the latest information on influenza: www.cdc.gov/widgets/ and www.cdc.gov/SocialMedia/Campaigns/H1N1/buttons.html

The guidelines also discuss the important components of an influenza pandemic plan and recommended employer responses for the upcoming flu season. As we wrote previously, however, employers should take care not to discriminate based on the virus. (The EEOC has cautioned against national origin and disability discrimination in the face of a flu pandemic.) Warren & Hays can help create a pandemic plan and appropriate responses to help employers maintain the highest level of productivity throughout the flu season.

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