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 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 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.


“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!


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

Check for updates.

1 comment:

  1. Lawffice Space received an anonymous comment that made some relevant and coherent points yet sadly included some juvenile name-calling as well. I will respond to the actual arguments while declining to post the comment’s immature rhetoric.

    First, the commenter known only as ‘DC09’ points out that “the guidance indicates that it is acutally [sic] the younger population (6 months to 24 years) not the mature population who are at high risk for H1N1.” The guidance specifically labels those over 65 as being at “higher risk for complications.” I erroneously stated that older workers were “particularly susceptible” when in reality they are “higher risk” because when they do get infected “they are at increased risk of severe illness.” My notes have been updated accordingly.

    Second, DC09, quotes my note that employers should tell high risk employees about their risk. He or she states that I “should know better than to instruct employers to create policy (especially written policy) that discriminates it's [sic] vunerable [sic] workers (IE ADA protected workers) from the rest of the employee pool.”

    First things first: I do not, anywhere in this post, “instruct employers to create policy,” written or otherwise. Period. As I indicated, these are my notes from the H1N1 guidance linked in the blog entry.

    Second, even relying on the erroneous assumption that employers should create their policies around this blog entry, I do not state that employers should “discriminate.” In fact, the post explicitly states, “Don’t discriminate.” If you lack the ability to reconcile communicating risks to high risk employees and not discriminating, fine. Seek out an HR professional, research the issues (I even included links to the EEOC web site, the Department of Labor web site,, and the specific H1N1 guidelines issued by the federal government), or contact an employment attorney. Do not come here and accuse me of instructing employers to discriminate!