This year’s flu season is one of the worst we’ve seen in years. However, without paid sick leave, not everyone can follow doctor’s orders and stay home from work.
Likewise, a lot of employees find it difficult to keep their children home for as long as is recommended. Policies that take the needs of individuals and families into consideration are necessary, if we really want to get this flu season, and the ones to come, under control.
What workers can do now to stop the spread of flu:
There are several things workers can do to get better faster if they become sick and to help minimize the spread of the flu.
There are a lot of myths about the flu shot floating around, but getting vaccinated each year is one of the most crucial ways workers can protect themselves and others. No, the flu shot doesn’t cause the flu. Also, while receiving the flu vaccination doesn’t guarantee immunity, it does lessen the impact and harm if you do get sick.
“In 2017, a study in Pediatrics was the first of its kind to show that flu vaccination also significantly reduced a child’s risk of dying from influenza,” states a report from the CDC on the 2017-2018 influenza season. “The more people who get vaccinated, the more people will be protected from flu, including older people, very young children, pregnant women, and people with certain long-term health conditions who are more vulnerable to serious flu complications.”
Some employers provide access to annual flu vaccines directly to their employees. Certainly, this helps to limit the spread among those workers.
Another thing everyone can do to help limit the spread of influenza is to wash their hands often. Using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol can also be effective.
However, one of the best ways to stop the flu from spreading around offices, schools and other public places is for people to stay home when they’re under the weather.
Unfortunately, this option isn’t always one employees feel they can exercise.
The best way to stop flu spreading is to stay home. Unfortunately, workers can't always do that.
Paid Sick Leave Is Key
People go to work when they’re under the weather for a lot of different reasons. Some workers feel pressure from their employer to come in no matter what. This figure could be as high as 25 percent. Our modern culture of overwork contributes to the problem of sick workers spreading their illnesses.
However, the best way to encourage workers to stay home when they’re under the weather is still to compensate by offering paid sick leave. It may seem obvious, but too many employers neglect to offer the option.
In industries like food service, for example, not doing this can be particularly devastating.
The CDC recently did a study of this segment of the working population, because illness can spread so easily through the preparation of food by sick workers. They found that coming to work sick is fairly common in this industry.
Twelve percent of food workers even admitted to working when they were sick with vomiting or diarrhea. This is the time when people are most contagious and should be home resting. Needless to say, sick workers should not be preparing food for others to consume.
Too often the workers who deal with the public the most, such as employees in the food service industry, don’t have paid sick leave options. This leaves them with little choice but to head in to work anyway, or send their kids to school when they’re under the weather, or sacrifice crucial pay.
Employers ought to improve and expand their paid sick leave benefits. Otherwise, employees will continue to work while sick … and bad flu seasons will continue to get worse.
Tell Us What You Think
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