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Federal Agencies Encourage Businesses To Plan For Flu Season

The heads of three federal agencies, Department of Commerce (DOC) Secretary Gary Locke, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano, recently announced new recommendations to help business owners plan for the upcoming flu season.

Released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the guidance aims to help employers begin preparations now for the impact that the seasonal and 2009 H1N1 influenza could have this fall and winter on employees and business operations.

The CDC guidance urges employers to develop plans that address encouraging employees with flu-like symptoms or illness to stay home, possibly having employees who are at higher risk of serious medical complications from infection work from home, operating with fewer employees, and implementing common sense measures to help prevent the spread of flu in the workplace.

The CDC also recommends that employers:

  • Encourage seasonal flu vaccination as well as H1N1 vaccination for employees
  • Implement measures such as regular, frequent hand washing and routine cleaning of commonly touched surfaces to help reduce the spread of flu
  • Consider canceling non-essential face-to-face meetings and travel

Employers should review sick leave policies and ensure that employees understand them, and also try to make sick leave policies flexible for workers who may need to stay home and care for a sick family member, according to the CDC guidance.

“One of the most important things that employers can do is to make sure their human resources and leave policies are flexible and follow public health guidance,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “If employees are sick, they need to be encouraged to stay home. If people begin to experience flu-like symptoms at work, they should be sent home and possibly encouraged to seek medical treatment.”

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