The following guidelines come from the Centers for Disease Control. Following these guidelines will help reduce the risk to both you and your staff of being exposed to the flu in the workplace, potentially becoming ill, and transmitting the virus to family members and friends.
Sick employees should stay home—self-isolation will reduce the spread of the flu.
• Advise employees to pay attention to whether they have signs of fever and other signs of influenza-like illness before reporting to work each day. They should notify their supervisor and stay home if they are ill. Employees who are ill should not travel.
• The CDC recommends that employees with influenza-like illness remain at home until at least 24 hours after they are free of fever (100° F [37.8° C] or greater), or signs of a fever, without the use of fever-reducing medications. Employees with a significant cough should not come to work even if they have no fever.
• Expect sick employees to be out for 3 to 5 days in most cases, even if antiviral medications are used.
•Employees who work in healthcare settings or work with patients should be off work 7 days after the onset of symptoms or until resolution of symptoms, whichever is LONGER.
• You may require a doctor’s note from employees who call in sick with influenza-like illness for more than 3 days to validate their illness or to return to work if you have concerns about the legitimacy of the employee’s absence.
• Employees who are well but who have a family member at home with influenza can report to work as usual. However, these employees should monitor their health every day, and notify their supervisor and stay home if they become ill.
Sick employees at work should be asked to go home.
The CDC recommends that employees who appear to have an influenza-like illness upon arrival at work or who become ill during the day be promptly separated from other employees and be advised to go home until at least 24 hours after they are free of fever (100° F [37.8° C] or greater), or signs of a fever, without the use of fever-reducing medications.
Teach employees to cover coughs and sneezes.
• Influenza viruses are thought to spread mainly from person to person in respiratory droplets of coughs and sneezes. Emphasize for employees the importance of covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or, in the absence of a tissue, one’s sleeve. Place posters in the worksite that encourage covering coughs and sneezes.
• Consider providing tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles for employees’ use.
Instruct employees on hand hygiene.
• Influenza may be spread by contact with contaminated hands. Instruct employees to wash their hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand cleaner, especially after coughing or sneezing. Place posters in the worksite that encourage hand hygiene.
• Consider providing soap and water and alcohol-based hand sanitizers in the workplace. Ensure that adequate supplies are maintained. If possible, place hand sanitizers in multiple locations or in conference rooms to encourage hand hygiene.
Clean surfaces and items that are more likely to have frequent hand contact.
• Frequently clean all commonly touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label.
• No additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning is required.
Strongly encourage employees to get vaccinated.
Encourage your employees to get vaccinated for seasonal influenza.
Take measures to protect employees who are at higher risk for complications from influenza.
People at higher risk for complications from influenza include pregnant women; children under 5 years of age; adults 65 years of age and older; and adults and children who have chronic lung disease (such as asthma), heart disease, diabetes, diseases that suppress the immune system, and other chronic medical conditions.
Inform employees that some people are at higher risk for complications from influenza and that if they are at higher risk for complications, they should notify their healthcare provider if they become ill. Early treatment with antiviral medications is very important for people at high risk because it can prevent hospitalization and death.
(By Sharon Page, The HR Edge, www.hredgeonline.com)