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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

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Are You Breaking Swine Flu's Golden Rule?

Staying Home When You're Sick is Key Advice That Some Find Unrealistic

Afraid to Stay Home From Work continued...

Philip Deming, principal of Philip S. Deming and Associates, a human resources and security risk management firm in King of Prussia, Pa., says he's heard anecdotes of workers who are afraid to stay home when sick.

"If they have any inkling that their employer may be shutting down or doing a RIF [reduction in force], they're not going to chance taking the time off, especially if they don't have vacation time or sick time or [paid time off]," says Deming, who chaired a group that wrote pandemic flu guidelines for the Society for Human Resource Management.

"That's a problem," Deming says, "because you try to get your [sick] employee to leave the workplace [to] not to put others at risk."

And in small businesses, "in most cases the owner's going to show up if he or she can possibly make it, and probably most of their better employees will make an effort to get in to work," says Keith Ashmus, a partner in the Cleveland law firm Frantz Ward and chairman of the National Small Business Association.

"I think it's pretty extreme to say the first time you start having a little bit of fever or a little bit of respiratory problems that you're not going to do what you've done your whole life and suck it up and go to work," Ashmus says.

But going to work when sick can backfire, Koonin notes. "If a sick person comes into the business place and exposes other people, then absenteeism is going to be increased, and that's going to threaten the continuity of function of businesses," she says.

Will Your Business Understand?

Koonin says the CDC encourages businesses to develop flu policies that allow workers time to recover, and for businesses to communicate those policies to workers.

Stone agrees that businesses should make their plans now and inform workers that they should stay home if they're sick.

"A company needs to be sending that message out now, before we get into the fall, that our expectation is that you won't come to work sick, which is a slightly different message than what we've been saying to our employees all year ... you need to give 110%, this is not business as usual -- all those economic messages," says Stone.

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