Winter is a time of year when cold and flu season is in full swing with many people succumbing to some type of illness. In fact, information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that “Most seasonal flu activity typically occurs between October and May — and flu activity most commonly peaks in the United States between December and February.”
This can create a problem for many businesses because it often leads to excessive absenteeism, leaving employers scrambling to fill in the gaps.
Common Absenteeism Issues
When there’s a higher than average rate of absenteeism, your business can suffer in several ways. First, it can be a major detriment to productivity and can be especially problematic if a “linchpin” employee is absent. Next, it hurts your profitability — and according to Circadian, “Unscheduled absenteeism costs roughly $3,600 per year for each hourly worker and $2,650 each year for salaried employees.”
Finally, absenteeism often ends up creating a more stressful working environment because other employees are forced to pick up the slack. Combine all of these issues, and you’re facing some major headaches.
Applicable Federal and State Laws
There are four federal laws that relate to employee absenteeism:
- The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Most states also have workers’ comp laws that protect workers if they acquire a work-related illness. Each state dictates how to handle employee absenteeism — and you need to make sure that you’re staying within the law.
It’s necessary to follow a fair procedure before terminating employees for excessive absenteeism. For example, you want to maintain thorough documentation of absences, treat each employee the same, follow the same procedure for every case, allow an employee to state their case and so on.
How to Incorporate Workplace Wellness
Perhaps the best way to reduce the number of absences in your workplace is to make employee wellness a priority. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to offer healthcare benefits to your employees. When you look at the long-term advantages, this often makes sense.
Another idea is to pay for flu vaccinations each year or reimburse your employees after they’ve received their shot. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, allowing this strategy to go a long way, especially during the peak of flu season.
Other ideas include:
- Offering healthy diet seminars
- Encouraging employees to exercise or even pay for their exercise classes
- Creating a policy that requires employees to wash their hands after each trip to the bathroom
- Placing hand sanitizer throughout the workplace
Although you can’t eliminate employee illness and absenteeism altogether, there’s a lot you can do to reduce the frequency and severity of it. Taking measures to incorporate workplace wellness will keep your staff healthy and your business running smoother.