Guy at the office blowing his nose

Flu season is upon us, and if history is any guide, it will cost employers a lot.

Preventing the flu from disrupting your business is pretty straightforward: Encourage employees to get flu shots, wash their hands often, and stay home if they’re feeling sick.

It makes sense. The flu is contagious, and a worker coming in with flu-like symptoms could pass it along to a larger portion of your workforce. So instead of one employee being out for a couple of days, you have a dozen employees missing work.

But what if a worker comes in sick anyway? Can you stop them?

NJBIA’s Stefanie Riehl says it’s possible.

Need more? Check out these upcoming seminars:

Crash Course in New Jersey’s Paid Sick Leave Law, Oct. 19

Hands On Handbook Seminar, Nov. 2

“If you have a policy in your handbook that says workers should not endanger or injure other workers, this could, arguably, also cover making another colleague sick,” she explains. “If an employee does not follow that policy, they could be disciplined per your existing discipline policy.”

If you don’t have such a policy in your handbook, she recommends getting one.

If the employee insists that they are not contagious, you may want to request that they provide a doctor’s note. If the doctor’s note says they are able to report to work, then you would allow it.

“The key in all of this would be that whatever you decide to do, you do it such that all of your workers are treated the same,” Riehl stresses. “Otherwise, you could face a discrimination charge. So, you would not want to send your receptionist who is 65 years old home because of a 102 fever, but let your lead salesperson who is in his 20s stay.”

Nevertheless, staying home sick goes against our traditional work ethic. Many people still believe a dedicated employee would not miss work, so despite all of the policies and announcements, chances are, people will still come to work coughing and sniffling, or worse.