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Sample Severe Influenza Pandemic Policy

By Jackson Lewis  9/15/2009
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The world health community continues to monitor closely the emergence of a pandemic influenza, through the novel H1N1 virus. At this time, no one knows how severe the pandemic will be. Given this uncertainty, and the fact that we are approaching the time of year when seasonal influenza also becomes widespread, we are taking proactive steps to address a number of business concerns. First and foremost, we want to maintain a safe workplace and encourage and/or adopt practices protecting the health of employees, customers, visitors or others. We also want to ensure the continuity of business operations in the event of a severe influenza pandemic. The policies described below are intended to achieve these objectives. As always, our efforts will be guided by and in accordance with all applicable federal, state and local laws. We will continue to monitor information and advice on this important issue and modify or supplement these policies as necessary. If you have questions or concerns, please contact [identify company contact].

Preventing the Spread of the Flu in the Workplace
We ask all employees to cooperate in taking steps to reduce the transmission of both seasonal and novel H1N1 influenza in the workplace. By all reports, the best strategy for reducing the transmission of influenza remains the most obvious—frequent hand washing with warm, soapy water, covering mouths with tissues whenever you sneeze, discarding tissues used when sneezing. We also will install alcohol-based hand sanitizers throughout the workplace and in common areas.

Staying Home When Ill

Many times, with the best of intentions, employees report to work even though they feel ill. We provide employees with paid sick time [confirm] and other benefits to compensate employees who are unable to work due to illness. During flu season and/or an influenza pandemic, it is critical that employees do not report to work while they are ill and/or experiencing the following symptoms: fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. A significant number of people who have been infected with this virus also have reported diarrhea and vomiting. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people with influenza-like illness remain at home until at least 24 hours after they are free of fever (100 degrees F or 37.8 degrees C) or signs of a fever without the use of fever-reducing medications. Employees who report to work ill will be sent home in accordance with these health guidelines.

Reporting to Work When Not Ill
A severe influenza pandemic could result in a significant level of absenteeism. Some employees may be unable to work if they become ill due to the virus while others may need to remain home to care for ill family members or simply to provide care for children during school closings. During this time, unless otherwise notified, our normal attendance and leave policies will remain in place. Individuals who believe they may face particular challenges reporting to work during a severe influenza pandemic should take steps now to develop any necessary contingency plans. For example, employees might want to arrange for alternative sources of childcare should schools close and/or speak with supervisors about the potential to work from home temporarily or on an alternative work schedule.

Requests for Medical Information and/or Documentation
During a pandemic, individuals who contract seasonal and/or H1N1 may never be diagnosed or confirmed as having flu. Nevertheless, depending on the circumstances, if you are out sick or show symptoms of being ill, it may become necessary to request information from you and/or your health care provider. In general, we would request medical information to confirm your need to be absent, whether and how it relates to H1N1 infection, and that it is appropriate for you to return to work. As always, we expect and appreciate your cooperation if and when medical information is sought.

Confidentiality of Medical Information

Our policy is to treat any medical information obtained from a disability-related inquiry or medical examination, as well as any medical information voluntarily disclosed by an employee, such as contracting the H1N1 virus, as a confidential medical record. In furtherance of this policy, any disclosure of medical information is in limited circumstances with supervisors, managers, first aid and safety personnel, and government officials as required by law.

HR professionals have permission to use this sample policy courtesy of  Jackson Lewis, which represents management exclusively in employment, labor, benefits and immigration law and related litigation. For more about this policy, contact Republished with permission. © 2009 Jackson Lewis. All rights reserved. 

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