While we may be ready to let go of the colder months, the flu season is still very much here and it usually continues through to October, continuing to affect tens of thousands of Australians.
We've had an early start to the flu season this year with higher case numbers compared to the same time in previous years. According to the Department of Health’s Surveillance Report from August, there are still rapidly increasing numbers particularly in NSW, SA and Tasmania.
Employers should take heed; an early flu season could do more than make stomachs turn. The productivity lost by absent employees presents potential economic effects on businesses. According to a study from September 2011, influenza was responsible for over 1.5 million of lost workdays during the 2010-2011 flu season. Influenza is an easily spread illness, and many people contract the flu virus from their family members and other individuals they spend extended periods of time with including work mates and colleagues.
In fact, many sources list influenza as one of the leading causes of employee absences. Some estimates say that 10 - 12% of all employee absences are due to contracting the flu virus. Each infected employee might miss up to six days of work and need up to two weeks to make a full recovery.
Certain occupations are more at risk of spreading influenza. It is therefore important if you work in an industry or location at risk of flu that you take the proper precautions to prevent the illness. Boosting your immune system and taking precautions now could mean you avoid catching a debilitating condition during the colder season.
One of the many benefits of a worksite flu program to you as an employer is the overall cost savings. A study of 849 workers from 18 to 64 years old found that immunizing against the flu reduced the number of respiratory illnesses, days lost from work, and visits to a doctor for an estimated net savings of $47 per person, almost twice what the average workplace vaccination costs.
Determining return on investment helps create a sound business case for a worksite flu program. Some objectives to measure include: rates of absenteeism, reduced productivity, direct health savings and employee engagement. Protecting the health and safety of employees, as well as safeguarding the company’s bottom line, offer ample reason to invest in a worksite program.