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September 28, 2009


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Margaret O'Hanlon

Great, practical insights that we should all consider closely. Will your company help people cope, or just repeat your existing policies?

I met someone at a recent conference who went back home to Australia and promptly came down with the swine flu. He was in bed for a week and feeling a bit weak after that. Apparently, this is the reality of the flu.

If your company culture encourages people to work sick, you'll not only have more people catching the bug, some may end up with lingering medical problems. You can have a communications campaign ready now (and kept in your back pocket) that will help shift employee behaviors by explaining how to make the most judicious use of their sick time options.


At my organization, we offer a regular PTO bank (vacation, sick, holidays) and an Extended Illness Bank (EIB). EIB is to be used for extended personal illness or injury. The first three consecutive missed days of work come out of PTO and then you may begin using EIB time for the remainder of the same illness/injury. It helps take the bite out of a flu-type situation.

Kay O'Brien

Lots of great questions to consider. We offer short-term disability if someone runs out of sick leave. But some employees could really help out by reserving sick leave for when they (or their family) are actually sick, rather than calling out because they have a hangover, or their football team lost, or they need a mental health day or it's 80 degrees and sunny or whatever.

Just saying. :)


Good Information. My present employer sent out an E-Mail regarding excused sick leave for H1N1 and posted a flyer regarding H1N1 prevention. In the E-mail, it presented itself as if it would forgive an employee if they took time off for illness due to being diagnosed with H1N1 but no official policy changes went into effect. This of course, sub-consciously deters employees from taking sick leave due to the strict attendance policy. (Catch 22) I am quite sure some employers use occurences like this to their advantage to terminate undesirables if too much time is taken off from work, whom otherwise may not be subject to discipline.

fran melmed

jen, i think you raise really great questions about how policies support or detract from their intent. one thing i wanted to point out about the guidelines from the article, the cdc guidelines now support staying home 24 hours after a fever breaks, not after all symptoms disappear. obviously, this does not alter your main point -- just adds some assurance that last year's strict guidelines in reaction to h1n1's appearance have been adjusted. business guidelines are available at http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/business/guidance.


Jennifer Benz

Thanks, all, for the great comments and feedback. Clearly a topic we are all thinking about a lot right now!

Fran -- Thanks for the update on the guidelines!

Michael Haberman, SPHR

Another question? How do you deal with this in terms of FMLA? Does it meet the standard? "a period of incapacity requiring absence of more than three calendar days from work, school, or other regular daily activities that also involves continuing treatment by (or under the supervision of) a health care provider" Probably so. If you are out 7 days is that all getting recorded. Have you sent all the paperwork?

Going to be a busy time for HR.

Ron Tredway, SPHR

Jen, I concur with your comments regarding prevention, and believe a lot of our HR colleagues are applying these basic principles of prevention. I even suggest using the 'poster' developed by Homeland Security for small business, which is linked from the CDC website.

I believe the questions you've raised are helpful, although perhaps the easy part. The hard part is finding meaningful answers that fit the organization in a non-discriminating, consistent manner, such as Mike's point on FMLA.

Practical solutions to these tough questions by the readers would be most helpful, as we continue to encourage shared best practice across the profession.

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