Monday, July 13, 2009

Staff could be allowed two weeks off without a sick note rather than the usual one.

By Kate Devlin, Medical Correspondent
Published: 8:00AM BST 11 Jul 2009

Swine flu: workers 'could sign themselves off for two weeks' Workers could be allowed to sign themselves off for twice as long as normal if they are suspected to have swine flu under plans being considered by ministers.

Staff could be allowed two weeks off without a sick note rather than the usual one, in a effort to deal with the pandemic.
Officials do not want workers to struggle into the office if they do have the virus, for fear that they could spread it to their colleagues.

The proposals came to light just a day after health officials warned that the number of flu cases in parts of the country was approaching epidemic levels.
Fourteen people have died so far in Britain after contracting swine flu.
Officials estimate that around 8,000 people have been infected with the virus in the last week.
However, in total around 27,000 contacted their GP complaining of flu-like symptoms.
Some experts warned that any change to the sick note system could leave it open to abuse.
Under current rules employees can be off sick for seven days, including weekends and bank holidays, without the requirement for a note from their GP.
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: "The Government is rightly considering possible measures to minimise the risk of further spread of swine-flu and protect public health.
"We don't want people to feel obliged to leave the home or return to work when they are still unwell or put an unnecessary burden on GPs in a pandemic.
"Contingency plans therefore include the possibility of extending self-certification to 14 days for a limited period."
He added that the measures would "only be implemented if absolutely needed".
The Government's flu plan estimates that up to half of the workforce might need to take time off at some point to either recover from the virus or to care for sick relatives.
But experts warned that the change could attract those prepared to cheat the system.
Prof Sayeed Khan, chief medical adviser at EEF, which represents the manufacturing industry, said: "Being realistic, there will be some people who think 'I've got a bit of a cold' or 'I'm not that bad' and will stay off work.
"There's nothing you can do to fix that. Employers can rely on the good morals of their employees and say 'don't abuse it'.
"They can say they will take tough measures against anyone found abusing it but that's about all they can do."
Neil Carberry, head of employment policy at the CBI, said: "It's clear that we don't know what the scale of the peak of pandemic flu that we expect in third and fourth quarter of this will be.
"Employers need to be thinking through their business resilience plans in the face of threat of pandemic.
"The impact of a pandemic outbreak is going to be the significant threat to employers, not necessarily some of the temporary measures."
Britain now has the third highest number of laboratory confirmed cases in the world, behind America and Mexico, where the virus was first identified.
The worst affected areas so far have been London and the West Midlands.
Although experts predict that cases could fall as the summer progresses, especially once the schools close, they are expected to start rising again in the autumn.

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