Each year, the seasonal flu has a marked impact on businesses and employers, causing increased absenteeism, decreased productivity and higher health care costs. The past few flu seasons have seen high hospitalisation and mortality rates, which has public health experts fearing another deadly flu season.
Unfortunately, the 2020-21 flu season isn’t the only health crisis employers and employees have to address this year. The COVID-19 pandemic is still affecting the workforce, and the combination of another potentially bad flu season and the pandemic has public health experts worried.
As an employer, you are well-positioned to help keep your employees healthy and minimise the impact that influenza has on your organisation. Public Health England provides guidance on seasonal flu for employers.
Educate Employees on the Flu v COVID-19
Unfortunately, because the flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, some of the symptoms are similar. For example, common flu symptoms include the sudden onset of fever, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, congestion, cough and sore throat. All of those are currently considered symptoms of COVID-19.
One of the difficult aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic is that the symptoms are wide-ranging and vary in severity. Some with COVID-19 may experience little to no symptoms, while others may be severely ill and require hospitalisation.
Due to the similarity in symptoms between COVID-19 and the flu, it may be difficult to determine whether an employee has the flu or COVID-19 without being tested. As such, it’s important to encourage employees to stay home if they are ill.
Consider allowing employees to work from home, if they’re healthy enough to complete their work or while they wait for test results, and encouraging employees to take paid time off if they need to. If an employee tests positive for COVID-19 and needs to take time off to recover, employers should honor any contracts that pertain to paid sick leave. If that time runs out, or if paid sick leave is not included for employees, they may be eligible to utilise statutory sick pay.
Preparing Your Workplace for Flu Season During the Pandemic
There are a variety of steps employers can take to protect employees and prepare for flu season—which may include steps you’ve taken in response to COVID-19—regardless of whether employees are in the office or working remotely.
Here are some strategies to consider:
These strategies may not be right for all employers. Depending on the nature of your organisation, you may need to implement additional prevention strategies. Contact us to discuss your situation.
For More Information
The combination of COVID-19 and flu season could have a significant impact on your organisation this autumn and winter. Contact us and request employee educational materials regarding flu prevention, vaccination promotion and good hygiene to start protecting your organisation and employees today.