Minimize the Flu in Your Small Business

With the influenza season upon us, and elevated concerns over the H1N1 virus (also referred to as “Swine Flu”), businesses should be prepared to promote a healthy work environment for their employees.  Small businesses are especially susceptible to a flu outbreak, as they operate with a small staff.  The Secretary of Homeland Security has provided some tips and guidelines for Small Business to assist them through the flu season.  Here are some highlights:

  • Develop policies that allow employees to stay home sick without fear of reprisal.
  • Develop flexible policies to allow workers to telework (if feasible) and create other leave policies to allow workers to stay home to care for sick family members or care for children if schools close.
  • Provide workers with up-to-date information on influenza risk factors, protective behaviors, and instruction on proper behaviors (for example, cough etiquette; avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth; and hand hygiene). See
  • Provide resources and a work environment that promotes personal hygiene. For example, provide tissues, no-touch trash cans, hand soap, hand sanitizer, disinfectants and disposable towels for workers to clean their work surfaces.
  • Promote a culture of health in the workplace, encouraging employees to access available health benefits & flu shots.

Other resources may be found at, as well as a letter to small businesses from Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security

Jill Critchfield is a professional Human Resources Consultant.  Through her business, Pacific HR, she has provided HR services to over 150 small and mid-sized businesses in Portland, Oregon since 1999.


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