Employers are being warned that they should consider the legal and practical implications of a possible flu pandemic.
So far in the H1N1 swine flu outbreak, school systems have been worst affected, with some opting to close at the first sign of students being infected. But some experts say workplaces too must make contingency plans, in case the virus spreads more widely. Some larger employers have already begun to put policies in place – General Electric says it’s restricting all non-essential travel to Mexico.
Employment law expert Bernard Jacques of Pepe and Hazard in Hartford says companies must be aware of their obligations to provide proper family leave in case of illness, and of their legal requirement to provide a safe workplace.
"Employers should be planning ahead now, deciding who are the essential employees. They should also be able to figure out how many employees could be working from home, that is how many could be involved in telecommuting, so that they employer can continue to move its business forward while dealing with the related health issues and absences associated with the flu."
Jacques says in Connecticut employees cannot be forced to go to an unsafe workplace, or to travel abroad on business if they believe their safety would be compromised.