February 16, 2017

Sick and Tired: Managing Employee Absenteeism During Flu Season

by Curtis Moore, Fisher Phillips LLP

Flu season may be coming to a close, but it’s still costing employers in a big way. According to the Center for Disease Control, the flu causes U.S. workers to miss 111 million workdays and employers to lose $7 billion in productivity each year.

To counteract these staggering costs, employers must be proactive in implementing policies and procedures to promote wellness and reduce employee absenteeism during flu season.

Although providing paid sick leave is generally not mandatory at the state or federal level, employers may opt to voluntarily offer such leave to prevent the spread of illness in the workplace. During a flu outbreak, employers are permitted to ask employees if they’re experiencing flu-like symptoms, such as fever or chills, without violating the ADA’s restriction on disability-related inquiries. If an employee displays such symptoms, he or she can be sent home to protect the health of other workers. Moreover, employers can host voluntary, on-site flu vaccinations to promote wellness and minimize employee absenteeism, while avoiding the risks associated with mandatory vaccination programs..

Although the employer will bear the costs associated with paid sick leave and voluntary flu vaccines, the cost of prevention measures must be weighed against the much larger costs associated with lost productivity during flu season. Ultimately, an ounce of prevention may be worth a pound of cure.

Curtis Moore