The flu vaccine for the 201415 flu season only is about 25 percent effective which means employers will have to prepare for more absences due to illness or more employees showing up sick to work Thinkstock

The flu vaccine for the 2014-15 flu season only is about 25 percent effective, which means employers will have to prepare for more absences due to illness or more employees showing up sick to work.

Keeping Illness Out of the Workplace

A Purdue professor offers suggestions to keep flu out of workplace.

A report published in the Jan. 16th edition of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) estimates that this season’s flu vaccine reduced a person’s risk of going to the doctor because of flu by 23 percent for all ages, making it one of the least effective flu vaccines in recent years.

So, with flu season underway, Purdue University Professor Ellen Kossek says employers need to be proactive in dealing with ill workers.

Kossek, a specialist in work-life issues, says the United States has a large number of workers who aren’t paid if they stay home because of personal illness or the illness of children or family members.

“This can lead to something called presenteeism,” Kossek says. “That means an ill worker shows up on the job but isn’t really working. And that person can easily be spreading the illness.”

Kossek says that in addition to providing sick time, employers also can help avoid having sick workers on the job and spreading illness by developing some useful policies. Among them:

  • Provide cross-training so your production doesn’t suffer if a worker is absent.  “Make sure each employee has a backup who knows how to do the same job,” Kossek says.
  • Whenever possible, let an employee who is not feeling well (but not stay-in-bed sick) work from home. “Perhaps the employee works a lighter load that day and catches up later in the week,” Kossek suggests. “The employer gets some work done, and the employee doesn’t infect other workers. The worker doesn’t get behind and has time to sleep and recuperate.”

According to Kossek, “We need to rethink work to have weekly or monthly hours and include some paid sick time for workers” if we want to avoid presenteeism – and the spread of illness – in the workplace.

 

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