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It starts with a sneeze, then a cough and before you know it your business is shut down or seriously impacted because of the spread of influenza among your employees. Flu season generally runs from October until May. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the annual costs of influenza in the United States are $4.6 billion, including losses of up to 111 million workdays and $7 billion in sick days and lost productivity.
Here are some tips to help keep your employees healthy and productive:
- Encourage everyone to get vaccinated. Influenza is the only respiratory virus preventable by vaccination and the flu vaccine is quick, cheap (sometimes free) and readily available. Although employers should not require employees to get vaccinated due to disability and religious accommodation issues (except in workplaces that deal with at-risk populations, i.e., hospitals and similar organizations), they may educate employees about the safety of vaccinations and the risks of not getting vaccinated, sponsor an on-site vaccination program or provide an incentive such as providing paid time off to get vaccinated and reimbursing employees for the cost of the flu shot.
- Educate employees about flu signs and symptoms so that they can take action (or time off) before they infect others:
- Muscle and joint aches
- Weakness and fatigue
- Warm, flushed skin
- Red, watery eyes
- Dry cough
- Sore throat and runny nose
- Encourage good hygiene by providing hand soap or sanitizer and facial tissues. Post signs in the workplace reminding employees to wash hands thoroughly and to cover their mouth and nose when they cough or sneeze.
- Sanitize desktops, doorknobs, telephones and other commonly handled surfaces The flu is transmitted through respiratory droplets which can land on surfaces and affect others who touch these items.
- Review your sick leave policy. Do you allow employees to use sick leave to care for family members who are ill? Consider allowing the employee to work from home (if possible) while providing care.
- Send sick and/or contagious employees home or tell them not to come to work in the first place. The cost of paid sick leave is a small price to pay to prevent the flu from spreading germs to others in the workplace.
- Encourage employees to stay home until they are fully recovered. The CDC recommends that people who display fevers and other flu-like symptoms should stay home until 24 hours after their symptoms end.
An HR professional can help you with all of your human resources needs. From hiring the right employees, running background checks, creating employee handbooks that include anti-harassment policies and procedures, and so much more, Next Level Solutions can work with you to provide the services that you need to run your business.
Don’t risk being out of compliance or letting your employee handbook become obsolete; give us a call today to see how we can become your human resources partner.