So, is everyone sick of reading and hearing about H1N1 yet?  I am.  But what I’m really tired of hearing about is all the so called experts telling employers what they need to do when the flu hits the workplace.   “Drop your dr. slip requirement for people who are sick!”  “Pay everyone to stay home when they are sick!”  Come on, really?  Anyone know how you are supposed to pay for this?  I even read one article that quoted some government study that said something like “3 out of 5 businesses will suffer major disruptions in production if half of their employees are out of work for 2 weeks.”  Are you kidding me?  Listen, if you can survive 2 weeks with half of your staff out of work, I don’t know how to tell you this, but you just may be a bit overstaffed.


So how about some practical, lets not panic, what can I really do now advise?  Ok, let me give it a try. 


First of all, bone up on your FMLA knowledge.  The recent amendments to the FMLA make it very clear that the flu, as long as the employee is incapacitated for 3 full calendar days and gets treatment once within 7 days of first becoming incapacitated and again within 30 days or gets a prescription, is covered by the FMLA (how’s that for a run on sentence).  This is good for a couple of reasons:  First, it gives the employee some comfort that their mean old employer can’t fire them while they are out sick.  Second, it gives the mean old employer the medical information he needs so the employee can’t play games with sick time.


Next, go to the CDC website at  Copy this part and post it in the break room where everyone can see it:


Take these everyday steps to protect your health:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners* are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.) Keep away from others as much as possible to keep from making others sick.


And then, here are a couple of other things I thought of on my very own, that don’t require you to break the bank and start a whole new benefit program:


Go out with petty cash and by a bunch of tissues and alcohol based hand cleaner.  Spread them around the office.


Cancel unnecessary meetings and tell your employees to do the same.  Why get people together in a small room and let them all get sick if you don’t really need to get together at all.  Plus, when the panic is over you might find out you didn’t really need that meeting to begin with.


Let people know that where you can, and where it is necessary, you will push off deadlines.  This might take some of the pressure off and indirectly encourage sick people to stay home.


Think about letting people work from home when they are sick or they have a sick family member and they want work.  That way they still have some cash coming in and you still have work being done.  And you don’t have sick people walking around the office spreading their germs. 


These are just a couple of things I thought of off the top of my head.  They might not work for you and then again they may.  Bet if you thought about it you could come up with some other ways to prepare without writing a new benefit plan.  If you do, send a comment.