According to the online tool Flusurvey, 61.7% of the people currently reporting flu symptoms are employed – and with health professionals warning that this week’s cold snap is likely to increase the number of cases, the flu could hit your business very soon.

This is a nasty epidemic with many hospital admissions and deaths recorded, so here are some ways in which you can protect your business, your staff and yourself.

Keep a box of tissues handy

With flu jabs now in short supply, there are still some practical steps and advice you can give to staff. The old saying “coughs and sneezes spread diseases” still holds true. Providing tissues for people to sneeze into rather than spreading their germs far and wide is a good idea – but make sure they bin them!

Have a good supply of hand wipes

Think how many germs there are on mobile phones and microwaves. Keyboards and door handles can be just as bad too, so good hygiene is essential. Ideally we would all avoid crowded places, but for most people that’s impractical. Regular washing of hands or using hand wipes can help.

Take real flu seriously

We have all joked about man flu, but how can you tell if it’s a bad cold or the real flu? In a newspaper recently, the BBC’s Dr Ranj joked that a silly test is to put a £20 note on the floor – the person with a cold will pick it up whilst the person with flu won’t even care.

Colds tend to come on gradually, but flu symptoms have a sudden onset. Therefore staff suddenly experiencing a headache, temperature, sore throat or coughing need to go home and stay there.

We’ve previously blogged about when you might think someone is pulling a sickie, but how can you help those who are genuinely ill? Booking in a return to work meeting when they’re back is often beneficial.

A sickness policy is essential

Whether it’s man flu or a broken leg, make sure there’s a policy and procedure for reporting and recording absence – and that all your staff know about it!

If no policy or procedure is in place, or you would like a free review of your existing one, call your local HR Dept.

This blog was submitted to Seaham Business Park by Alison Schreiber, who runs The HR Dept Durham and Darlington. Alison works with a number of businesses across East Durham, offering HR advice and guidance to businesses and individuals. For more info, visit HR Dept Durham and Darlington or call Alison on 01325 526036 or 07535 853226.