Tis the….season of colds and flu!

Employers and workers will, as usual, be anticipating seasonal colds and flu. However, this year’s winter flu season will pose some unique challenges — not least due to the extensive overlap in the symptoms of seasonal colds and the coronavirus. The NHS has tips on distinguishing between colds, the flu and the coronavirus, which may be of value for managers to share with their workers.

Public health experts are currently facing growing concerns regarding a second peak of the Covid-19 virus at the same time and employers will need to support national efforts to tackle this problem, while ensuring the safety of their workers — and the health of their business.

It has been reported the number of people being immunised this year is set to double, with the aim of reducing the number of flu infections and therefore reducing the pressure on the NHS over the winter.

It goes without saying that it is not for managers or employers to attempt to diagnose the coronavirus (or any other illness) but for the worker’s GP or other healthcare professional. However, sharing information from the NHS may prove reassuring to worried staff members and their families.

Previously a worker may have happily gone into work sneezing and blowing their runny nose because they felt well enough to do their job. This same situation, this year, is likely to be extremely anxiety-provoking for colleagues and customers, who probably won’t be reassured that the three key symptoms of Covid-19 are absent.

Ensure you have clear policies and advice for employees in place to deal with this year’s unusual situation, this can be as simple as emphasising to staff they should work from home at the first sign of a cold, waiting on professional diagnosis and health advice, while establishing relevant pay and HR policies. Responsible employers and managers will wish to play their role in helping to keep their staff, customers and the public safe and healthy. And of course, good health is good business.

By remaining vigilant about hygiene in the workplace, maintaining good ventilation and social distancing, and continuing with other Covid-secure measures in the workplace (such as face coverings), employers and their managers can help to avoid the disastrous economic and health implications of a spike in cases of seasonal flu overlapping with the continued management of the coronavirus.

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