Friday, October 9, 2009

Tell me where it hurts. . .

If you're an HR professional, your response to this invite might be the longest it's been in a while. Your budgets have been trimmed, maybe training has been reduced, demands on you have changed and increased, and your head is on a swivel as you try to keep up with the talks about pending federal and state legislation impacting your company.

On top of those aches and pains, you now are entering flu season. You may have noticed a trend in your company that employees are coming to work sick on days they would normally stay home. It seems to be a common reaction in times when job security is low or weak. This trend may have some others in your company worried--you notice more cans of Lysol around the office, pumps of antibacterial hand gel are around every corner, and was that a mask you just saw on the receptionist?

You know what's coming next: the knock on your door by a latex-gloved manager who asks you if the company shouldn't put out a policy on coming to work sick, or maybe an edict telling people they have to stay home when they're under the weather? The media attention over this flu season is quite impressive, and that has undoubtedly raised the cough antennas on a lot of your employees.

Check your current policies first to see if any of them address the concerns that are surely headed for your door faster than the next story about H1N1. Give due consideration as well to whether you could enforce a new policy if you were so inclined to write one--how long is long enough? do you need a RTW from the doc? can you require proof of non-contagiousness and, if so, what is it? should you require a flu vaccination--or can you?

You should also be prepared for inquiries about reasonable accommodations--maybe someone has a history of a weakened immune system--what to do with that person if his co-workers are keeping Kleenex in business right now?

It's going to be an interesting season for all of us. Now excuse me while I turn on my air purifier.

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