According to Walgreens, the average U.S. employee missed three days of work due to the flu last winter. And in its 2013 Flu Impact Report, the drugstore chain also said that businesses had to face $30 billion in flu-related costs (mainly related to lost work days).
Whether your organization was hard hit by the flu or not last year, it may be a good idea to stop and consider whether you want to encourage or require – yes, require – your employees to be vaccinated against the flu strains expected in 2013-14.
Get vaccinated, or else
Requiring employees to get vaccinated so as to avoid catching the flu may sound like a radical idea. But according to workplace law attorneys, it’s something private employers can do – within limits. Those limits are principally medical and religious.
Suppose, for instance, that an employer requires its employees get vaccinated, but one employee has a disability that would be aggravated by flu vaccine. In that case, the employer would have to accommodate the person under the Americans With Disabilities Act, which would most likely mean not making him or her take the vaccine. A similar scenario would arise if an employee had religious objections to being vaccinated.
While obliging employees to be vaccinated is something employers CAN do, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s something they SHOULD do. This kind of requirement is likely to be seen by employees as a nettlesome invasion of privacy, and whatever you gain in days worked may be lost in lower productivity due to morale damage.
A milder approach
A less radical, but still effective, approach is to give employees incentives to get their flu shot.
The employment law firm Leech Tishman suggests these incentives:
- Offer the vaccine at work, at low or no cost
- Provide refreshments at an employer-sponsored vaccination site
- Hold a contest and reward the department or team with the highest percentage of vaccinated employees
Finally, the Centers for Disease Control offers a voluminous, free toolkit for encouraging employees to get vaccinated. The toolkit includes flyers, checklists, posters, weblinks and discussion guides.
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See toolkit at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/business/
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