Planning for Autumn & Winter Swine Influenza 2009/2010

Businesses may have already been impacted by the spring and summer outbreaks of 2009 H1N1 influenza affecting their employees. The severity of illness that 2009 H1N1 influenza flu will cause (including hospitalisations and deaths) or the amount of illness that may occur as a result of seasonal influenza during the 2009–2010 influenza season cannot be predicted with a high degree of certainty. Therefore, employers should plan to be able to respond in a flexible way to varying levels of severity and be prepared to refine their pandemic influenza response plans if a potentially more serious outbreak of influenza evolves during the fall and winter. More people and communities are likely to be affected as influenza is more widely transmitted.

All employers must balance a variety of objectives when determining how best to decrease the spread of influenza and lower the impact of influenza in the workplace. They should consider and communicate their objectives, which may include one or more of the following: (a) reducing transmission among staff, (b) protecting people who are at increased risk of influenza related complications from getting infected with influenza, (c) maintaining business operations, and (d) minimizing adverse effects on other entities in their supply chains.

Employers should expect to see a wide range of disease patterns across the country. Employers should base their strategies and response to influenza outbreaks on local information from local and regional public health authorities. Some of the key indicators that should be used when making decisions on appropriate responses are:

  • Disease severity (i.e., hospitalisation and death rates) in the community where business is located;

  • Extent of disease (number of people who are sick) in the community;

  • Amount of worker absenteeism in your business or organisation;

  • Impact of disease on workforce populations that are vulnerable and at higher risk (e.g., pregnant women, employees with certain chronic medical conditions that put them at increased risk for complications of influenza); and

  • Other factors that may affect employees’ ability to get to work, such as school dismissals or closures due to high levels of illness in children or school dismissals.


Employers need to plan now to be able to obtain updated information on these indicators from regional and local health departments in each community where they have a business presence and to respond quickly to the changing reality on the ground. Employers with more than one business location are encouraged to provide local managers with the authority to take appropriate actions outlined in their business pandemic plan based on the condition in each locality.

Actions Employers Should Take Now

  • Review or establish a flexible influenza pandemic plan and involve your employees in developing and reviewing your plan;

  • Conduct a focused discussion or exercise using your plan, to find out ahead of time whether the plan has gaps or problems that need to be corrected before flu season;

  • Have an understanding of your organization’s normal seasonal absenteeism rates and know how to monitor your personnel for any unusual increases in absenteeism through the fall and winter.

  • Engage state and local health department to confirm channels of communication and methods for dissemination of local outbreak information;

  • Allow sick workers to stay home without fear of losing their jobs;

  • Develop other flexible leave policies to allow workers to stay home to care for sick family members or for children if schools dismiss students or child care programs close;

  • Share your influenza pandemic plan with employees and explain what human resources policies, workplace and leave flexibilities, and pay and benefits will be available to them;

  • Share best practices with other businesses in your communities (especially those in your supply chain), chambers of commerce, and associations to improve community response efforts