Overview: Because the flu is highly contagious, flu season always carries with it the risk of a pandemic. The workplace typically means many individuals sharing close quarters, making it easy for flu viruses to spread if not adequately contained. In addition to the obvious concerns for employee health and safety, a pandemic could knock out enough workers to affect productivity and financially hurt the employer. Accordingly, workplaces should take all necessary precautions to prevent a flu pandemic.
The best place to start is by stopping the flu before it starts. Employers can offer flu shots or educate workers on health concerns and illness prevention. Encouraging employee hygiene, proper hand washing and other germ containment measures are examples of educating employees on prevention.
If an employee does get the flu, he or she should be encouraged not to come to work in order to recover and to limit other employees' exposure. If the employee does not have any sick days left or cannot afford to take off work, the employer could consider telecommuting as an alternative.
Trends: It seems like every year a new variant of the flu pops up all over the country. That is why offering employees low-cost or onsite flu vaccines on an annual basis can be so beneficial to everyone.
Author: Melissa Gonzalez Boyce, JD, Legal Editor
Employment glossary definition of Avian Flu.
Employment glossary definition of Bird Flu.
Employment glossary definition of H1N1.
Employment glossary definition of Pandemic.
HR guidance on preventing a pandemic flu outbreak in the workplace.