If there is a swine flue pandemic, New York employers will play a key role in protecting employees’ health and safety as well as in limiting its impact on the economy and society. Employers will likely experience employee absences, changes in patterns of commerce and interrupted supply and delivery schedules.
Employers can protect their employees and lessen the impact of a pandemic on society and the economy with proper planning.
New York employers should use OSHA’s free Guidance for Preparing Workplaces for an Influenza Pandemic http://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3327pandemic.pdf to help identify risk levels in workplace settings and appropriate control measures that include good hygiene, cough etiquette, social distancing, the use of personal protective equipment and staying home from work when ill.
Up-to-date information and guidance is available on the http://www.pandemicflu.gov website.
A pandemic could affect as much as forty percent of the workforce during periods of peak influenza illness. Employees could be absent because they are sick, must care for sick family members or for children if schools or day care centers are closed or are afraid to come to work, The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for themselves or a family member, regardless of how many employees are asking for time off.
Employees are eligible to take FMLA leave if they:
(a) have worked for their employer for at least 12 months;
(b) have worked for at least 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months;
(c) work at a location where at least 50 employees are employed by the employer within 75 miles.
New York employers should:
- Stockpile face masks for employees who have high exposure to the public.
- Provide flu shots and tetanus shots.
- Revise attendance and leave policies in employment manuals so that employees are not penalized for taking time off.
- Draft a disaster communications policy.