Posted on: July 16, 2009 Posted by: Diane Swarts Comments: 0

UK. So far 7 447 cases of swine flu has been recorded in the United Kingdom alone since April 2009. This has lead to the Department of Health (DoH) considering doubling the amount of time employees have to sign themselves off for sick from work from seven to 14 days without the need for a doctors letter.

Employers are however concerned that employees could abuse the system and see the changes as a ‘freedom pass’ to taking off from work with relatively little consequences, particularly in the light that a typical flu lasts about seven days.

The DoH however states that should the proposal to extend sick leave time, it would only be in force for about a six-month period only.

Employers are unlikely to be consulted about the changes because they will come into effect as an emergency measure and will be implemented immediately.

Says a DoH spokesman: “We are in a treatment phase of the swine flue and it is not so widespread that it has reached that point where so many people are off work that it’s needed. We don’t know how it’s going to play out.

This will be an emergency measure, designed to free up medical resources and reduce the spread of swine flu in GP surgeries and a short-term measure to contain swine-flu. The impact of a pandemic is going to be a significant threat to employers. Employers need to be thinking thorough their business resilience plans in the face of a threat of a pandemic.

Earlier this year, it was estimated that a swine-flu outbreak in the United Kingdom could cost employers $1.5bn a day, with up to a quarter of the country’s workforce potentially going off sick.