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Employers Took Many Measures to Protect Employees
Smaller, but notable, percentages of employees reported that their company took other actions such as creating back-up systems for employees to cover each others' work and expanding leave policies.
The poll was conducted April 21 to May 13, 2010 among a nationally representative sample of 1,491 employees from private sector businesses outside of education and health who employ 20 or more persons.
"These results suggest that in a future contagious disease outbreak, many businesses will try to adapt their policies to mitigate the impact on employees, with most adopting protective precautions, such as encouraging sick workers to stay home, and a minority taking other important measures, such as expanding sick leave policies," said Robert J. Blendon, Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis at HSPH and director of the Harvard Opinion Research Program (HORP).
Concerning responses recommended by public health officials, most employees (81 percent) reported that their companies provided hand sanitizer, alcohol-based hand rub or hand-washing stations to reduce the spread of H1N1 at the workplace. A similar percentage (80percent) said their companies encouraged employees to stay home from work if they were sick with flu-like symptoms.
Some 60 percent of employees reported that their company encouraged them to get the H1N1 vaccine. According to employees' reports, large companies, those with 500 or more employees, were more likely than medium (100 to 499 employees) or smaller (20 to 99 employees) companies to do this (66 percent v. 54 percent and 48 percent, respectively).
"Businesses can be a vital public health partner with health authorities during an outbreak," said Gillian K. Steelfisher, Research Scientist in the HSPH Department of Health Policy and Management and a member of the polling team. "Public health officials at federal, state and local levels should develop plans that specifically bring educational materials and preventive measures into the workplace."
MEDICA.de; Source: Harvard School of Public Health