Thursday, August 20, 2009

H1N1 Swine Flu Cliffs Notes for Employers

Did you read Wuthering Heights in high school? Of course not! You read the Cliffs Notes... errr, was that just me? Anyway, there's new H1N1 Swine Flu guidance for employers this flu season. It was issued by HHS CDC and DHS and I was kind enough to read the whole thing (do you see what I do for you people?) and prepared the following Cliffs Notes (not actually affiliated in any way with Cliffs Notes) version.

COMMUNICATE

Communicate your goals to employees - Protect employee health while maintaining business operations.

Some people are "at higher risk for complications of influenza," including pregnant women and people over 65 – tell them they are particularly at risk and encourage them to take precautions.

Collaborate with other businesses to find policies and procedures that work.

Check with your state and local health officials regularly to stay informed of issues specific to your geographic location.

Add the Swine Flu widget to your web site! I already put one on Lawffice Space (over on the right); you can get yours here.

PLAN

Plan in advance how you will implement your H1N1 strategy, including monitoring absenteeism so you can spot a spike.

How will operations continue if there are heavy absences? Consider cross-training employees to cover for one another and identify essential functions that must be covered (you should really consider this even when there isn't a pandemic threat).

Establish work-from-home policies and make sure you have the IT infrastructure to support this option.

Have a plan for employees with children to handle early school dismissals (and encourage them to keep the kids out of the office).

The guidance includes suggestions for a more severe outbreak. It’s probably too soon to implement these but you may want to at least start thinking about how you might go about: Screening employees; utilizing alternative work environments; social distancing; and cancelling travel.

PREVENT

“During an influenza pandemic, all sick people should stay home and away from the workplace, hand washing and covering coughs and sneezes should be encouraged, and routine cleaning of commonly touched surfaces should be performed regularly.” (yes, that emphasis was theirs).

Encourage your employees to get vaccinated.

Keep a clean working environment!

It cannot be said enough... WASH YOUR HANDS!

REMINDER

Don't discriminate or violate labor laws (duh) - Check eeoc.gov and dol.gov for details.

Check flu.gov for updates.