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Employers: help reduce potential outbreak of swine flu

The Department of Health is predicting that one in four employees could fall ill with the swine flu virus. Every business has an interest in keeping staff healthy and in curtailing the spread of the influenza (flu) virus in order to keep business operations running and minimise exposure.

Although influenza is generally not a reportable disease for infected employees under The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR), employers should still exercise a general duty of care by providing their employees with general information on how to minimise the risk of becoming infected, or spreading infection in the workplace.

The symptoms of swine influenza are similar to the symptoms of regular seasonal flu infection, so to avoid worry and confusion, employees who develop symptoms should be told to seek advice from their GP.

In the event that swine flu does become a pandemic, the employer should make plans to prepare for a depleted workforce. You may need to carry out additional risk assessments to make sure that the reduced numbers of staff who are carrying out the same levels of activity are working safely. If employees are working longer hours you will need to ensure that you are complying with the Working Time Directive.

The good news is that with medication the effects of the flu last about a day, so with good management hopefully employees and businesses will recover quickly.

For further health & safety information and advice, visit the Lloyds Law website at www.lelc.co.uk

You can also go to www.direct.gov.uk, the nation’s official website, which is being updated regularly with information about worldwide health and travel in the wake of the swine flu outbreak.

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