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Employers Urged To Help Stop Spread Of Swine Flu

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The federal government is hoping that companies in this country will help in the fight against the H1N1 swine flu. It has issued guidelines to encourage businesses to be ready for the virus in the workplace.

NPR's Joanne Silberner has more.

JOANNE SILBERNER: You can sum up the government's guidelines this way. Employers should make clear to workers that if they got the flu they should stay home without worrying about losing their jobs. Companies should have plans on how to get by with fewer workers. They should stress hand washing and covering coughs. They should encourage workers to get vaccinated when a vaccine becomes available. What about making workers get doctors' notes when they're out?

Secretary GARY LOCKE (Department of Commerce): That's a requirement that employers should consider dropping.

SILBERNER: Commerce Secretary Gary Lock.

Sec. LOCKE: It has the potential to overload the health care system that will likely be stressed during this year's flu season.

SILBERNER: Jayne Lux of the National Business Group on Health says many big businesses have already implemented some of the suggestions. The new advice does present challenges she says.

Ms. JAYNE LUX (Director, National Business Group on Health): It will mean something different than business as usual - whether that's related to your policies at work, especially your human resources policies, or the way in which you do your business.

SILBERNER: The spring outbreak of the new H1N1 was a blessing in disguise, she says. It gave businesses a chance to develop and test their flu plans.

Joanne Silberner, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Joanne Silberner is a health policy correspondent for National Public Radio. She covers medicine, health reform, and changes in the health care marketplace.
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