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Employers took many measures to protect employees and avoid business impact of H1N1 flu outbreak
Date:6/22/2010

Boston, MA In response to the H1N1 flu, most employees at U.S. businesses say their company took measures to protect them from illness, such as encouraging sick employees to stay home, according to a national poll of employees by researchers from the Harvard Opinion Research Program at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). Smaller, but notable, percentages of employees reported that their company took other actions such as creating back-up systems for employees to cover each others' work and expanding leave policies.

The poll was conducted April 21 to May 13, 2010 among a nationally representative sample of 1,491 employees from private sector businesses outside of education and health who employ 20 or more persons.

"These results suggest that in a future contagious disease outbreak, many businesses will try to adapt their policies to mitigate the impact on employees, with most adopting protective precautions, such as encouraging sick workers to stay home, and a minority taking other important measures, such as expanding sick leave policies," said Robert J. Blendon, Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis at HSPH and director of the Harvard Opinion Research Program (HORP).

Concerning responses recommended by public health officials, most employees (81%) reported that their companies provided hand sanitizer, alcohol-based hand rub or hand-washing stations to reduce the spread of H1N1 at the workplace. A similar percentage (80%) said their companies encouraged employees to stay home from work if they were sick with flu-like symptoms.

Some 60% of employees reported that their company encouraged them to get the H1N1 vaccine. According to employees' reports, large companies, those with 500 or more employees, were more likely than medium (100 to 499 employees) or smaller (20 to 99 employees) companies to do this (66% v. 54% and 48%, respectively).

"Businesses can be a vital public health partner with health
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Contact: Robin Herman
rherman@hsph.harvard.edu
617-432-4752
Harvard School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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