Is Flu Season Causing Havoc to your Small Business?

The NFIB Legal Center has produced these tips for small businesses on how to keep employees healthy during flu season.

Flu Season Arrives – Prepare Now to Keep Businesses & Employees Healthy

Even though nightly news stories warn of an active flu season, small business owners might not have considered how the sniffles can have trickle-down effects on their bottom lines. But that’s not a healthy attitude. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warns that flu season can last all the way to April and that each flu season nearly 111 million workdays are lost due to the flu. Business owners should prepare now for employee absences.

Review the following Q&A to learn how you can keep your employees and business healthy in sick times.

What’s the best way to keep employees healthy?

First and foremost, keep sick people out of the office. Make sure your business has adopted policies that encourage employees to stay home without any fear of reprisals.

Also, urge your employees to get a seasonal influenza vaccine. If possible, provide employees time off to obtain the vaccine or consult with your benefits provider about offering the vaccine to employees on-site. The flu is not going away, so an annual flu shot program can provide a good return on your investment.

Finally, create an environment that is both healthy and clean. Keep frequently touched common surfaces clean. For example, regularly wipe down telephones, computer equipment, and kitchen areas. Preventing the spread of germs can make a big difference in getting ahead of seasonal illnesses.

What’s the best way to keep my business healthy?

Be ready for unexpected absences – even if an employee isn’t sick, the employee may be out to care for a sick child or other family member. Be ready with a back-up plan to ensure critical jobs are covered. Cross-train employees on key functions, so if someone is out sick, another employee can step in and cover the job. Permit telecommuting if possible.

Am I required to offer paid sick time?

It depends. Subject to the provisions of your business’ vacation/paid time off (PTO) policies and any state laws; you can require an employee with the flu to use paid leave for any absence due to illness.

If your business offers paid leave, and if the employee has exhausted the leave, you can generally dock a non-exempt employee’s paycheck for work missed due to illness.  For exempt employees, if the exempt employee initiates the absence, the employer may dock the exempt employee for full-day absences.

Finally, depending on the size of your business the employee might be entitled to leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, depending on whether the worker (or his or her family member) was sick for more than three days and sought treatment with a healthcare provider.

For more information:

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About Mike Durant

Mike Durant was named New York State Director of NFIB in May 2011. Prior to joining NFIB as the Assistant State Director in May 2010, Durant began his career in the New York Senate working in the Office of Member Services. From there, he served in a number of positions during former New York Governor George E. Pataki’s administration. As a Research Specialist in the New York State Office of Demographic Policy, Mike was responsible for drafting a redistricting proposal for Governor Pataki. In addition, Mike served as a Research Specialist for the Empire State Development Corporation, as well as the Associate Commissioner of Human Resource Management with the New York Department of Labor. Durant also spent four years working at the Questar III BOCES as a specialist focusing on the complex formulas that drive aid to school districts across the state while also taking a lead role in the state legislative/budget process as it related to education policy. These past positions have given Mike a deep understanding of the complex political economics of the State of New York. Active in the community, Durant has served on a number of boards in both the village of Ballston Spa and Town of Milton. Durant received his bachelor’s degree from Siena College in Loudonville, New York and resides in Ballston Spa with his wife and two children.
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