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This winter’s flu season has been an especially bad one. Turns out, it’s been expensive for employers as well. According to the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., the cost to U.S.  employers in lost productivity could be over $9 billion.

“The aggressive strain of flu currently making its way across the country is prompting experts to issue warnings to reduce the spread of infections,” the firm says.

The estimate is based on the number of illnesses in the past flu season, an average hourly wage of $26.63 and an average of four days out of work to recover. It predicts that 11 million employed adults missing four eight-hour shifts would cost employers $9,415,586,823.

“The current strain is particularly aggressive, and those who are sick can be contagious for up to seven days. Workers who have the flu or need to care for someone with the flu should absolutely not come into work. This is exactly why employers have sick leave benefits,” said Andrew Challenger, Vice President of global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

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