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Infection control, workplace wellness and flu shots

An ounce of education and a pinch of good policy can go a long way in keeping your employees healthy in the upcoming flu season. Here’s what you need to know to effectively reach employees and have maximum compliance to your flu prevention efforts in the workplace this year. Don’t forget to add in a sprinkle of humour!

  • First, the ROI. Preventing the flu from spreading throughout your workplace keeps your workforce healthy and at work. It can provide payroll savings by eliminating or minimizing sick days caused by the influenza virus. It can also improve on employee productivity as you don’t have people coming into work sick.
  • There is also an ROI for employee engagement. If the company makes flu shots available at work or give employees time off work to attend flu shot clinics, it sends the message that the company cares about employees health, well-being and time management issues.
  • There is a customer relations/marketing benefit for your organization, especially if you are in a service or healthcare industry.  Showing that you have strong infection control policies and make an effort to prevent the spread of influenza through your employees shows that you care for your customer/clients’ health and well-being.
  • Last, but not least, there is a compliance ROI. If you are in health care, the Ministry of Labour is focusing in Infection Control in your industry. The Public Health Regional authority in your area is also involved in surveillance of Infection Control in health care settings.

Education is key to compliance. The number one reason that people don’t get flu shots is because they don’t think or haven’t seen enough evidence that they really work. Flu shots have had a lot of bad publicity in recent years and people may have had bad personal experiences with the flu shot in the past as well. There are great education sources out there and it makes sense to use them to help employees understand why they should want to protect themselves and others using the effective influenza vaccine. Many great resources can be found at www.peelregion.ca/flu/

Some tips for a successful campaign include:

  • Have a visible and well led team promote the flu shot in your workplace.
  • Use a campaign style effort to earn the right to stick a needle in your employee’s arms.
  • Have transparent, consistent and sensible policies around the flu shot.  If you are in an industry that serves clients such as healthcare, hospitality or daycare, consider making the annual flu shot part of the job description before the person is hired.  For existing employees with an pre-existing job contract or in any union environments, check with your legal advisor before making flu shots mandatory.  Some healthcare environments in BC and in Ontario (nurses, paramedics) require employees to have the annual flu shot.
  • Track compliance, aim a little higher every year.
  • Check  benchmarks for compliance in your industry, especially healthcare, with your regional health authority.

Ensure that the disciplinary consequences to not getting the flu shot make sense. Once again, consult legal advice with any of these options in your organization, but some organizations dock non-compliant employees two days of pay for not getting the flu shot or some health care organizations require employees who don’t get the shot to where a face mask at all times during flu season except while in the employee lunch room.  Make sure your enforcement method doesn’t defeat the purpose of a healthy workplace. I’ve heard of companies that will refuse to pay the sick days for employees who don’t get the flu shot.  This is a policy gone wrong because it may actually encourage sick employees to make the effort to come to work and hide their flu symptoms in order not to miss out on pay.

Finally, don’t forget to use humour. Here is a list of the top ten poor excuses for not getting a flu shot:

10. You think aches, pains & fever are underrated

9. You’re desperate for a little sympathy

8. You’d like to catch up on the TV soaps

7. You want to keep your colleagues at bay

6. You like your voice a little raspy

5. You get thrills from having the chills

4. You’d like some time away from the office

3. Your stock portfolio includes Kleenex®

2. You consider coughing a full body workout

and the #1 poor excuse for not getting the flu shot is…

1. You don’t really care about your health or the health of those around you!

This list is from Immunize Canada which is another great resource for all things flu related. www.immunize.cpha.ca/en/diseases-vaccines/influenza.aspx

Marcia Scheffler
M.A., CHRP Candidate

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Marcia Scheffler

Human Resources Generalist at Wawel Villa
Marcia Scheffler, M.A., CHRP Candidate is a Human Resources Generalist with M.A. working full-time as a Senior HR Officer. She is interested in the intersection of human resources theory and current best practices in HR. Read more
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