The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, anticipating a spread of the H1N1 flu, has released new guidelines to help businesses and employers prepare now for the impact seasonal and H1N1 flu could have on employers, employees, and operations.

The guidelines urge employers to work with employees to develop and implement plans that can reduce the spread of flu.  They push for the preparation of plans that address such points as encouraging employees with flu-like symptoms to stay home, operating with reduced staffing and, where feasible, having employees who are at higher risk of serious medical complications from infection work from home.

Employers also might cancel non-essential face-to-face meetings and travel, and space employees farther apart in the workplace, the guidelines say.

The guidelines provide a list of “Actions Employers Should Take Now,” including:

  • Review or establish a flexible influenza pandemic plan and involve employees in developing and reviewing the plan;
  • Conduct a focused discussion or exercise using the plan, to find out ahead of time whether the plan has gaps or problems that need to be corrected before flu season;
  • Have an understanding of normal seasonal absenteeism rates and know how to monitor personnel for any unusual increases in absenteeism through the fall and winter;
  • Allow sick workers to stay home without fear of losing their jobs;
  • Develop other flexible leave policies to allow workers to stay home to care for sick family members or for children if schools dismiss students or child care programs close; and
  • Share your influenza pandemic plan with employees and explain what human resources policies, workplace and leave flexibilities, and pay and benefits will be available to them.

We will keep you apprised of other developments as the fall flu season approaches.

A special thanks to Mei Fung So of Jackson Lewis who prepared this blog post.