Flu at Work


It’s OK – It’s not COVID!

13 July 2022

Over the past 2 years many of us have struggled with Covid lockdown requirements and the isolation that came with it. Whilst we understand why many wish to return to the office and be with others, employers are now more aware that having people in the office who are unwell comes with downsides. So, what can you do?

Those of you who know me, know I railed against the “soldier on ads”. For years I have begged sick people to take care of themselves and others and stay home. The Covid pandemic was awful, but one thing it did was help us understand how easily we can (unknowingly) share an illness. Influenza, other viruses, and colds have a significant impact on individuals, their families and your business’ productivity.

We are starting to see more examples of employees who are obviously unwell, coughing, sneezing and exhausted at their desks, telling us “It’s not Covid, I’m OK.” So, what can you do if someone refuses to take personal leave, even when their poor health is making others uncomfortable?

Steps to encourage taking Personal Leave

  1. Check in with them and what they are worried about today. Work with them on extending deadlines, or if it can’t be extended, who in the team can assist so they log off for the day and take the needed care of themselves that personal leave was created for. Reassure them that it is OK to be on leave when they are feeling like this.
  2. If the employee is still unwilling to take leave, you may need to discuss the needs of the others in the office. Some co-workers may still be uncomfortable with the idea of someone coughing near them. Remind them that as an employer, you have a duty of care to create a safe working environment for the entire team.
  3. If there is still a level of push back, we encourage managers to request that the employee gets a medical clearance that they are fit for work from a medical professional so that you can be honest to others that you have done your best to create a safe work environment.

Managing is important, avoiding the issue is even better.

As a leader or manager, it’s important that you “Walk the Talk”. If you are unwell, work from home or even better take the time to rest and recover. You are a role model for your business.

For some clients we provide a fitness for work clause in their employment agreements. It lets employees know that you may require medical clearance for an unwell or injured employee to return to work.

Keeping the option for working from home if people are starting to feel unwell and their role allows them to do so is another great idea. Once one person comes to work sick, it is highly likely others will end up unwell.




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