Safety and OSHA News

Stay home! Flu-ridden employees still coming to work


Employees across the country have a message for their co-workers during this H1N1 flu season: Don’t come in if you’re sick.

A survey shows 91% of Americans said they want their co-workers to remain at home if they’re infected with H1N1.

And those workers have support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The agency recommends people with flu stay home until their temperature drops below 100°F without pain relievers for 24 hours to reduce its spread.

Other findings from the Mansfield Communications survey of 2,029 Americans:

  • 69% of workers said they’d received no communication about policies in the workplace pertaining to H1N1
  • 84% believe the recession creates more pressure to show up for work, even if they feel sick
  • 47% said they’d still engage in public activities (riding the bus, picking up a prescription or grocery shopping) even when they were infected with H1N1 and required to stay home from work, and
  • 84% were likely to report a colleague who had flu symptoms.

Recently, asked our readers how prepared they were for a swine flu outbreak:

  • 52% somewhat prepared
  • 29% not at all prepared
  • 17% well prepared, and
  • 2% don’t think swine flu will affect their company.

So if you’re like many businesses playing catch-up when it comes to flu preparedness, the federal government has a Web page with suggestions.

Now, we’d like to hear from you. What should a company’s policy be about workers who have the flu? Should they be required to stay home? What happens when so many workers are sick that it affects productivity? Let us know in the Comments Box below.

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  1. They come to work because they may be out of sick or vacation time, and they can not afford to stay home. Another reason is the economy, a lot of people are afraid of loosing there jobs. Now it is time for the goverment to bail these sick people out. If people would feel comfortable about taking time of because of the flu they would stay home.

  2. People don’t get paid, so they must come into work even if they are sick. Sorry, but that’s the way it is.

  3. I for one have had H1N1 and it is nothing to mess with – I was off work for over a week with the high fever for 5 days. My employer actually sent me home and paid me to not come in. I do not agree with M M as far as the government bailing out sick people, the more they get involved the worse things get. I think the employer should understand the severity of this horrible flu and work with their employees. If they truly have H1N1 then their sick time should be covered.

  4. This is difficult. Most employees don’t want to deliberately spread illness to their coworkers, but like stated above, they may not be able to afford the time off. Even if the employer says “stay home” the employee may be afraid of being labeled a “slacker”. Also, some workplaces require a doctor’s note if the employee is absent more than three days, but health professionals are recommending foregoing the office visit. Sometimes it’s a catch-22.
    My company has not done anything special to prepare for H1N1. I think it’s common sense that if your illness affects your ability to do your job, you stay home. During cold/flu season our cleaning staff regularly disinfects things like telephones, doorknobs & light switches in an attempt to prevent the spread of germs.
    When I was recently sick with a cold, I kept to myself as much as possible, avoided touching community objects and used hand sanitizer liberally. All of my coworkers are still healthy, so I’d have to say my efforts were effective.

  5. To answer the question, you assume people know if they have the flu (at the outset), and they very well may not know. Plus they are being discouraged from seeing a doctor for a diagnosis right away. That leaves people with any sniffle or woosie feeling wondering if they should stay home. If everyone in that condition stayed home, the country would drop into recession every winter.

    Being a bit of a devil’s advocate – believe it or not, there are plenty of people who enjoy work and have no interest in sitting at home, under any condition. It isn’t about not having sick time or being afraid of losing their job, they responsibly understand that they have a part in the workings of the organization. They will stay home if they can’t be a positive contributor. By the same token, a great many co-workers would just as soon have the help than pull double duty. If your primary concern is the spread of the flu, lets just shut everything down for the next three months, that will fix it – until we re-emerge. The general public is balancing the risk for themselves, as they do for every other aspect of their lives. It would never be enough to please the health establishment, but that is why they don’t run the country. Balance.


  7. Lets get back to the real world. A company is not going to pay for days off because of this flu. The goverment droped the ball again on this and should pay. If companies would get with the program then they would have had the shots for all there employes. That would be cheaper than paying for time off and missed.

  8. I can’t agree with M M more.

    My son had H1N1 and I was requested to stay home, because I am his care giver. My employer did not want me to bring it into everyone else. He is better now, thankfully, but now I have had to listen to the snide remarks about me taking the time off to care for him, and some finger pointing as to my reasons behind it. Comments coming from those that don’t have children nor has had this flu. There were over 400 students in the high school out with this flu, one case severe enough to be hospitalized. I didn’t want my child to be the second one, while I was at work. I love my job, but I love my child more. It is a risk I was willing to take. I really can’t afford to lose my job either, but I can find another job I will never get a child to replace the one I lost because I neglected to take care of him appropriately. There should be some provisions for a parent caring for a child, or a person that contracts this flu, so they don’t have to be so scared of losing their jobs.

  9. In theory it sounds like a great idea for companies to pay employees for the time they are out of the office with H1N1, but paying employees for an extra 3-5 days may not really be an option for many small businesses that already offer their employees Paid Time Off or sick leave. Employees should use their available PTO/Sick Leave and if they don’t have any available then employers should seriously consider letting them go in the hole if they have the flu.

    And “just say no” to a government swine flu bail out!

  10. What everyone’s had to share is an unfortunate reality, such as not having the PTO to take, fear of losing a job, etc. Agree wholeheartedly with JG that this is a difficult subject.

    I was out sick with the flu for nearly a week, but was fortunate enough to have the PTO to get paid. However, as sick as I was, I would’ve still stayed home whether I had the time off available or not. I can’t imagine anything more important than that of my health consequently my life & other people’s health. Although I have been sick with the common cold & did pretty much as JG did. Fortunately my company provides for the seasonal flu shots every year & has added the H1N1 this year. They’ve also been pretty understanding when an employee is out sick with the flu and don’t make a big issue of it. Consequently, the current policy is that employees who are sick are “encouraged” to stay home. To say “required” would only serve to complicate …. especially in the state of California!!

    Lastly, our cleaning staff also go around and sanitize telephones, etc.

  11. I understand people wanting to protect their jobs and not taking time off for an illness, but, I also do not want to get sick. Once at week, I put on my nitrile gloves and get out the rubbing alcohol. I clean everyone’s phones, desk tops, keyboards, monitors, door knobs and switches using a paper towel for individual offices. Each office gets new paper towels so that I don’t cross-contaminate the offices. The public areas also get completely wiped down. The next week, I do the same routine but use Clorox Anywhere (bleach solution). It may be over-kill, but so far, no one has gotten sick at our office. If we can prevent those viruses from our work place, it is well worth the cleaning effort.

  12. I truly believe that if people are running a fever they should stay home. There are people at the company that I work at that have been sick but they stay away from everyone. I order office supplies so I have ordered Purell and Clorox Wipes so that everyone can use it repeatedly throughout the day. So as long as everyone uses common sense things should not be spread

  13. Using PTO/sick leave is a great idea, if you have it. Too bad that not all companies are able to, or just plain offered such luxuries. Paying an employee (the carrier) to stay home when he/she becomes ill with this flu is better than closing shop because your carrier came into work and spread the virus. Now most of your employees are now home with it and you have no employees to work. The effect of a few being sick at work could have a large impact on an smaller company.

  14. As far as getting the vaccine, alot of people have contracted the H1N1 PRIOR to the vaccine coming out last week and the flu vaccine only came out a few weeks prior. Our office has hand sanitizer everywhere but you can only control so much – we also alow people who have become ill and do not have any pto left to go into “the hole” if they are out. M M keeps talking about the government paying for people when they are sick exactly how is that supposed to work when the govenment is in the hole to begin with. SW – I feel like you do I have a 4 year old and I definately stay home with her when she is sick, It sounds like the people that you work with do not have kids and if they do then their parenting abilities need to be questioned. You are a good parent!!

  15. Why is everyone getting so scared of a “flu”? Why is this country acting like nobody has ever gotten sick before and NOW we need to step up and adjust all of our policies? The truth is, most places have some sort of policy, even if it is getting “points” for time missed. Unless they have abused the system or had a string of bad luck, they should have time to take off and still have a job when they get back. And abusing the system is unfortunately what people tend to do when “sick days” are offered. It is really the attitude towards using those days that needs to change. People need to stop abusing it, and companies need to allow people the time when they need it.

    My only word of advice is to take care of yourself, wash your hands, and stay healthy! This will pass just like everything else before it and a new virus will be out soon enough.

    But, under no circumstances do I want the goverment to step in and screw up another job and waste even more of my hard earned money!!! They already get my 30%, they should learn how to work on a budget just like the rest of us!!!

  16. The goverment bails out all the big money makers but not the common people. How can people prepare them selves if the goverment is to issue and have the vaccine ready? I totally belive in people being on there own and totaly prepaired for anything, but the goverment did nothing when this hit Mexico. Also now they have droped the ball on the vaccaine. We all should be accountable for our actions.

  17. To Author: s. How dare you make a statement like that. Yes i do have a child and would never put her in danger, she is five. Yes i would also stay at home if i had to, but i happen to have a great wife that will do these duties. I guess whom ever makes the most money would be the one to go to work. If you are a single parent looks like you failed someware. Also 70% of the people that work here have a child also. If you can not prepair yourself then you are no good to help others even your own child.

  18. gilmore_trout says:

    The government should pay workers to stay home sick??????? Where do you think that money comes from? A more honest statement would be to say, ‘I am sick, so I want the government to take money from other people by force and give it to me because I am not prepared.’ Use your sick days, use your savings. Don’t have savings? Stop living beyond your means and start a savings. But keep your greedy paws out of my wallet.

  19. If a company already has a sick day allowance and the person used it for personal time/ additional vacation time, then they are on their on hook!
    Employers who do not have this in their companies should possibly look at the risks of having sick workers coming in and creating a lager number of infected persons and reduced production or creating temporary policies to address the issues that will beneficial to all.
    The sad part is most companies who have paid sick leave have performed this analysis and found it the most beneficial to all parties concerned. Those who do not have the sick leave either do not think it will affect them that negatively, do not care about worker turn over/ personal issues, or cannot afford that type of benefit.
    The ludicrous suggestion that the Government should step in is a reflection of the spoiled brat mentality that has gotten us it the economic mess we are in. If the question would be “What would be best for our Nation and the protection of liberties” instead of “What can I get for free” or ” Make the Rich pay for it” through the confiscation of wealth by the Government this would all be a non issue.
    People need to “MAN UP” (WOMAN UP) and do what they can not to get the bug in the first place. Stay out of WAL MART and other places with pharmacies that require you to wander around the store for an hour (When they could fill the dang prescription in 10 minutes) spreading the wealth of germs. If you must go, take sanitizer wipes and wipe down your basket, clean your hands during the visit especially if you are picking up items that may have been handled, sneezed or coughed on and be real sure you clean your hand after you get back into your vehicle. Yes ladies those nasty wipes and sanitizer gels dry out your skin, but, would it not be better to have to apply a little extra lotion than be down with an illness?
    Schools need to be the most vigilant, if ANYONE suspects a child has the flu. The child should be removed from further contact with the other children (They, the other children, should be given a chance to wash up to reduce the risk of contracting the illness), the parent contacted and have them pick up the child and keep them home until they are cleared.
    We need to quit asking the Government be the adult, because they are some of the most immature ones out there. And one more question, when was the last time the Government EVER did something right? Or did something that was not self serving?

  20. MM suffers from the latest disease, “I can’t take responsibility for myself, someone else needs to take care of me”. What happened to saving for rainy day or sick day? I am not saying that employers shouldn’t help if they can but always looking for the state to bail you out isn’t going to keep working. “The trouble with socialism (government bailing everyone out), eventually you run out of other peoples money” Learn to be responsible for yourself.

  21. To Author MM: Excuse me…#1 I am not a single parent But I hope that if there are any single parents that work with you, they are able to read your posting 🙂
    #2 you sound like a chauvinist – what happened to taking joint responsibility for taking care of children?
    AND #3 if you would have read my posting the comment about children was NOT directed at you I was speaking to SW regarding how her co-workers were speaking about her taking time off of work. I had reitterated that I felt she did the right thing!
    Now, the comment to you was “how is the government supposed to pay for people who are out sick with the flu work when the govenment is in the hole to begin with?”
    The bottom line is you might want to re-read what gilmore_trout, AZNative, and Allen have to say…and Have a Nice Day !

  22. MM apparently suffers from more than the latest disease, Allen. MM, are you kidding? ” If you are a single parent looks like you failed someware.” Maybe you should just stay on topic.

    I personally do not want the government running anything else of mine. My Bank, My auto dealer, my health insurance, and now my sick days. I don’t think so.

  23. People really do need to stay home when they are sick. Not only because they are infectious, but because they need to take care of themselves. Putting up with stressors at the workplace as well as out in the community adds to the time it will take to recover.

    I agree that employees are feeling the strain of these economic times, and employers are feeling it too. Employers can encourage their employees make the right decision to stay home during their illness by allowing their employees’ paid sick time to take effect immediately during the flu season. By supporting their employees in this way, employers will decrease the risk for a pandemic within their workplace resulting in a large number of absences all at once and significant drop in productivity. I think that people are neglecting to look at the bigger picture.

    Another flaw in standard procedure is that employers routinely require a note from a physician in order to excuse an absence exceeding two days. During the flu season, this practice overwhelms healthcare clinics and hospital emergency rooms, and amplifies the impact of the community-wide pandemic by unnecessarily exposing others to this virus. It also increases the individual’s risk for developing complications of flu (such as pneumonia & bronchitis) in addition to their illness, prolonging their recovery time.


  24. As Office Manager, I have been saying this over and over to our staff, if you are running a fever to please stay at home. But I hear the same excuse, I have no more time left, I have to work from home. Since we do not have a work from home policy in our office manual, my answer has been, if you are sick with fever and possible have the flu, working at home is not an option, because you need to rest because we need you back healthy. If you rest, you will get back to work quicker. I have heard alot of grumbling. There are always a few people who take advantage when they call in sick and these people also do not have any personal time left and they always call in and say, “I’m sick, I’m going to work from home today.” It amazes me every time when this happens, because how did this employee have the hindsight to bring so much work home the night before. Sounds like a planned sick day to me. So when an employee does call in and says they think they might have the flu, this person never even asks to work from home because they are really too sick to work, you can hear it in their voice and when they do feel well enough to return to work and if there is a financial hardship because they did not have enough personal time left, will immediately go the owners and tell them they ran over on their personal time and finds out how to make up the time. I believe most business owners appreciate those employees who are honest when accidently going over on their personal time. My employer will work out something with any employee on how to make up the time they went over. However to those employees who are screaming the loudest saying the government needs to bail them out when they are out sick, I’m guess are the same people who have taken advantage of their personal time by trying to extend theirs with the “I’m sick, so I am working from home today excuse. Plan ahead folks and save a few personal days, in case you do get sick. And if you do accidently go over on personal time and you have not regularly gone over on personal time in prior years, chances are, your boss with let those day slide and pay you because you had the flu.

  25. Exactly GA!

    Brandon – Why is everyone scared? Scared maybe, but cautious for sure and more aware, definately. Let me tell you that this is the worse case I have ever seen in our school systems where I am. This flu isn’t like any other. Some of the healthiest people that I know have gotten this flu. People that don’t get sick. I think because this flu has taken more lives in such a shorter period of time, and has spread so quickly is why everyone is being more cautious.

    S…. I do appreciate your comment, you did nail it. The Mgr. that has made most of the comments (that I know about) has no children, and the other one, from what most of us can see only pays attention to his favorite children. Which does not include the one that just recently got sick with this flu. In fact the comment was “were not worried, none of us go around him.” Both Managers are very Chauvenistic. I was told to go home the day my son got sick by my Manager’s boss, but being that I was already at work and was needed as there would’ve been one to work by himself, I chose to stay at work and run home and check on my son periodically. Good idea? Not really, but I did what I thought would work for all involved at the time. Loyalty to my job and family. Then I took the next 3 days off work to care for him. Again as the care giver, I was asked not to go to work. I wouldn’t have stayed with him anyhow. See where my loyalty to my company got me… a paranoid Mgr, making comments about me to my coworkers.

    If you are sick or caring for someone that is sick you need to stay home!

  26. swiftchic says:

    My prior work was with a child care company, where we had really bad benefits that you could not afford based on the wages that were paid, so I didn’t have medical insurance to get a flu shot. I got the flu during my shift at the child care facility and the management would not let me go home until there was coverage even though the director was available to come into the classroom. I had 103 degree fever and had to stay in my class for 2 and a half hours so the director would not have to step in. 3 kids got sick with the flu in my class because I had to stay in the classroom. Even though I had a fever for 3 days they wanted me to come in, and were mad that I had to miss work. Who wants to work for a company that treats employees like that?

    I think that if someone is sick with the flu (H1N1 or otherwise) they should be allowed to stay home and face ridicule for it. Pay or not, if you are sick with flu, stay home.

  27. I didn’t read all the responses above but when does it come back to you are responsible for you and I am responsible me. You know if you are sick and need to stay home. Are you that much of ?>!* and have no respect for for fellow workers.

    You can’t tell me if you take a sick day or five you have a chance of getting fire. Have you abused the system before lied about being sick? What do you think. Your employers have a real good idea of who does. Where I work we do not have any paid sick days. My wife and I made it through a 60 day period where I couldn’t work because of an eye problem. Have you ever heard of the old saying save for a rainy day? Another words saving for that unexpected item and yes being sick is an item. This bail out everyone expects now from the government and the company you work for is BS. Do the right thing and quit crying.

  28. Since we are not yet at the peak of the flu season I appreciate all the ‘here’s what I do’ comments. We will take them to heart and see if we are as diligent as some of y’all are. Thanks.

    We also have very rigorous work schedules but none can be accomplished without qualified workers. Wel believe our ‘sick time’ policy is among the best in the industry. Sometimes it helps to be out on a rig where the workers are isolated from the general public for several months. Our concern is when they rotate home – it could be like emerging from an isolation bubble.

    As for ‘doing something wrong in [one’s] life and being a single parent’. We have two office staff who are single parents – one a widow from the Afghan War; and one a widow from an air-sea rescue that turned tragic for the rescuers. We don’t believe they did anything wrong.

  29. Purell doesn’t really work. It’s a waste of money. It doesn’t replace hand washing. I somewhat support sick time, to a limited degree and occurences per year, as we have some people that would abuse it.

  30. Randy Nelson says:

    I truly feel it is up to each person to make their own decision to work or not.Life at this time is not black and white so many variables in ones personal life to dictate what they must or must not do is not what this country was founded on. To ones self be true.

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