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Cold and flu may be coming to an office near you!

When Australia was hit by the worst flu outbreak on record in 2017, many companies were not prepared for the impact. Business operations were severely disrupted due to the high number of employees suffering with flu or looking after family members who had fallen ill.

Now that the cold and flu season is upon us again, there are some practical steps and advice you can give to staff before illness hits your workforce.

Sick leave entitlement

Let’s not get this one wrong. Sick leave is covered by the Fair Work Act 2009. The statutory entitlement is 10 days per year (accrued throughout the year). It is not payable on termination and you can ask for medical evidence if you think someone is throwing a sickie. Some staff may try to take advantage of the cold and flu season to bag that extra day off!

Encourage your staff to get the flu jab

Allowing staff a little time off for doctor’s appointments to get a jab is a small price to pay for stopping the virus in its tracks. Encouraging and motivating your staff to get the flu vaccine helps to promote a healthy and productive workforce and prevent large-scale business disruption.

Germ spreaders

Let’s be honest, we don’t want sick people trooping their germs through the office and infecting everyone else. This is a real workplace health and safety issue, not only for the rest of the team but for the individual themselves. They will probably take longer to recover and be less productive too. Send them home!

Have a good supply of hand wipes

Think how many germs there are on mobile phones and microwaves. Keyboards and door handles can be just as bad too, so good hygiene is essential. Ideally we would all avoid crowded places, but for most people that’s impractical. Regular washing of hands or using hand wipes can help.

Take real flu seriously

We have all joked about man flu, but how can you tell if it’s a bad cold or the real flu?

Colds tend to come on gradually, but flu symptoms have a sudden onset. Therefore staff suddenly experiencing a headache, temperature, sore throat or coughing need to go home and stay there.

We’ve previously blogged about when you might think someone is chucking a sickie, but how can you help those who are genuinely ill? Booking in a “return to work” meeting when they’re back is often beneficial. Try to make sure the work is not stacking up in their absence by encouraging the team to plug the gaps and deal with issues that arise.

Keep a box of tissues handy

The old saying “coughs and sneezes spread diseases” still holds true. Providing tissues for people to sneeze into rather than spreading their germs far and wide is a good idea – but make sure they bin them!

A sickness policy is essential

Whether it’s man flu or a broken leg, make sure there’s a policy and procedure for reporting and recording absence – and that all your staff know about it! Also make sure that they know when evidence will be required if they take a sick day.

If no policy or procedure is in place, or you would like a free review of your existing one, call your local HR Dept.