As Students Return to School, CDC Issues Updated Guidance for Employers on H1N1 Flu

As children and young adults return to school, it's time to prepare for flu season again. 

On August 19, 2009, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with input from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, issued updated guidance for businesses and employers to plan and respond to the 2009-10 flu season

In its guidance, the CDC recommends that sick employees stay at home.  Consistent with this recommendation, the CDC suggests that employers should develop flexible leave policies to allow workers to stay home to care for themselves and sick family members, or to care for children whose schools are closed due to influenza.  The CDC advises employers to expect that employees with the flu will be out of work for 3 to 5 days in most cases, and that students in schools that are dismissed will be out of school for at least 5 to 7 calendar days. 

As I discussed in a prior posting, cases of H1N1 flu may rise to the level of a serious health condition, as defined in the FMLA.  Accordingly, employers need to be prepared to be proactive about offering FMLA leave to employees who qualify. 

As the CDC recommends in its guidance, now is the perfect time for employers to review their existing leave policies to ensure that they comply in all respects with state and federal law.  Prudent employers also will develop a flexible influenza pandemic plan to respond promptly should H1N1 or other serious flu cases arise in the workplace or their community.