What workplace precautions should be taken to protect against the flu?

Influenza, or “flu,” is a viral infection that affects 5% to 20% of U.S. residents each year. This results in increased employee absences, reduced productivity, and a risky work environment for employees who have not yet contracted the virus. However, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), these potential costs can be greatly reduced if employers take proper precautions to protect their employees against the flu.

Offer Flu Vaccinations at the Workplace

The best way to protect employees against the flu is to ensure that employees have access to flu vaccinations. The CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months should get a yearly flu vaccine. However, working adults often find this difficult given their busy schedules.

To combat this, you can host a flu vaccination clinic in the workplace. Employers often offer onsite seasonal flu vaccines to minimize employee absences and insure that infection doesn’t spread throughout the workplace. This works particularly well for companies in the health care industry who have on-site health clinics. If your company does not have a clinic, you can contract pharmacies or community vaccinators to provide vaccines on-site.

Other Precautions a Company Can Take to Promote Flu Vaccination

If holding a flu vaccination is not possible, you can take other steps to promote vaccination. First, check to see vaccinations are covered in employee health plans. Second, make sure employees know when and where they can get seasonal flu vaccines in their community. Lastly, be flexible; allow employees to get vaccinated during work hours if necessary.

Encourage Employees to Use Basic Hygiene Precautions

To avoid spreading infection in the the workplace, circulate a flu-prevention guide like this one from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It should include information such as the following:

  • Stay home if you are sick

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds

  • Frequently clean all common surfaces (telephones, keyboards, etc.)

  • Avoiding touching your nose, mouth, and eyes.

Helpful Links:

Seasonal Flu Information for Businesses and Employers

What’s New on Seasonal Flu

Seasonal Flu Free Resources

Information About Preventing Seasonal Flu with Vaccination

National Business Group on Health,Vaccinating Against the Flu: A Business Case

Dawn Nott
Director, HR
Posted on Aug. 18, 2015, 8:07 p.m.
Disclaimer: The answers and information on HR Answers serve as basic guidelines and are for informational purposes only. While our goal is always to provide useful content, we are unable to provide legal, tax, or fact-specific human resources advice and encourage you to speak with your legal counsel, tax advisor, or human resources professional to understand how this information applies to you.