H1N1: What to Do if the Swine Flu Hits Your Workplace

Beth Dean 05.01.09
107 Woman Hands On Keyboard

Many businesses are concerned about the spread of H1N1 Flu, also called Swine Flu. 

While it has not spread widely in Oklahoma, Texas has documented 61 cases as of May 6, 2009, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). From a business standpoint, there are several areas to review as proactive measures:

Emergency Preparedness: Review your company’s Emergency Preparedness plan for dealing with unexpected absences of key personnel. Be sure to have a way to get in touch with employees during times that they may be unable to come to the office.

  • Leave Policies: Review your company’s leave policies. H1N1 may be considered a serious health condition under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Companies may want to consider allowing employees to borrow against future paid time off if faced with an absence because of H1N1; at the same time, consider the financial impact of multiple employees using extended paid time off at one time.
  • Confidentiality: As always, employers must keep all employee health information as confidential as possible. However, you have the duty as an employer to report any H1N1 exposure to the proper public health authorities.
  • Remote Workers: If available, companies should review their telecommuting capabilities so employees can work remotely from home if need be.
  • Reporting Requirement: Require employees to report incidents of H1N1 immediately so that the company can take appropriate action with public health authorities to control the spread of disease in the workplace.

According to the CDC, there are preventive steps everyone can take to help prevent the spread of H1N1:

  • Stay informed by checking the CDC website
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective. 
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread easily that way. 
  • Stay home if you become ill in order to protect others from illness. 
  • Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and other social distancing measures.

For more information on H1N1, call the CDC at 1-800-CDC-INFO or visit their official page at http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/.

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