Flu season is bearing down upon us. After last year’s record numbers, here’s what every firm needs to know about reducing the damage the illness could do to your business.
Last year’s flu season was, without a doubt, a doozy: For employers, it had three times the impact ($30.4 billion) a more typical flu season has ($10.5 billion in 2010-2011).
That’s according to the 2013 Walgreens Flu Impact Report.
Other relevant data from the report:
- The flu cost employees $8.5 billion in lost wages, a 25% increase compared to the 2010-2011 season
- Over 70% of people surveyed were affected by the flu last year
- Employees missed, on average, three days of work in 2012-2013, compared to an average of one day during the 2010-2011 season
- Over 40% of those surveyed believe they got the flu from a co-worker
- 45% of parents said they would need to take time off from work if their child got the flu
- 6.2 million Americans missed a business trip in 2012-2013 compared to 2.0 million in 2010-2011, and
- Nearly one-quarter (22%) of the sick days taken off went uncompensated.
How to enforce a mandatory flu vaccine policy
So what are employers to do? If you’re like many firms, you’ve already taken steps to offer employees flu shots — and may even be considering instituting a mandatory flu shot vaccine policy.
Implementing such a policy can be legal for private employers, so long as they take into account staffers’ religions and disabilities.
If that’s the case, Drinker Biddle attorney Meredith R. Murphy, writing on LaborSphere, has a handful of tips to think about before implementing such a policy:
- Determine the need for such a policy. Do you really need a mandatory flu policy? Yes, it’s legal, but be prepared to identify the reasonable business interest for implementing a policy in case it’s challenged.
- Determine which type of policy you need. A “mandatory flu policy” may seem cut and dried, but there are actually several options. Some firms opt for a policy requiring all staffers to get shots, but others require only certain categories of employees to have one. A third option: Strongly encouraging flu vaccinations.
- Engage in the interactive process with employees who object. Staffers may be exempt from mandatory vaccine requirements due to a disability (an egg allergy, for instance) or a sincerely held religious belief. Chat with objecting staffers about alternatives, which can include not getting the vaccine or temporarily transferring the staffer to another position or location.
- Enforce the policy uniformly. Like any policy, ensure that all staffers receive a shot unless they have a legitimate objection.
- Talk to your state’s Department of Health. Before implementing your policy, get in touch with this agency, which can give you guidance on how the policy should be implemented or possible accommodations for staffers who object.