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HR Operations

Working through flu season

Taking care of yourself when you catch the flu is critical in speeding your own recovery and preventing the spread of the flu to others. The best way to do that is to stay home and rest if you have flu-like symptoms including: a fever of 100.4 F (38.0 C) or greater, plus a cough or sore throat, and possibly other symptoms like runny nose, body aches, headaches, chills, fatigue, vomiting, or diarrhea. 

The following questions and answers will help you understand what the University is asking each employee to do in order to keep our community healthy during the flu season.

UW Medicine expects all UW Medicine employees to receive the influenza vaccine annually unless there is a medical reason not to be vaccinated as it is the most effective way to prevent influenza and to protect our vulnerable patients and staff.

Employees who have not been vaccinated or provided documentation of their medical contraindication, must complete the declination process which includes an on-line education module, one-on-one education through Employee Health, and signing a statement of declination.

Noncompliance will result in a graduated counseling process as defined by Human Resources.

How should I prepare my department for flu season?

  • Remind employees of your unit’s procedure for calling in sick and what to do if they begin to feel ill while at work.
  • Review temporary telework Ensure that employees are familiar with the available tools (Outlook Web Access/Web Pine, remote desktop, how to forward their UW phone, UW SecurID, etc.) so that temporary telework arrangements can be set up quickly and easily. See how to connect to UW networks.
  • Discuss with your team the challenges flu season can pose; think about cross-training and what kind of support may be needed in a situation where several team members could be out for several days and at the same time.
  • Keep your own health in mind and be prepared to call in sick to work if you experience flu-like symptoms.
  • Contact your human resources consultant at any time.

Can I permit an employee to telework if the employee has mild symptoms, a health condition that could be worsened by exposure to the flu, or the need to stay home to take care of a sick family member?

Temporary telework arrangements are encouraged if you determine that an individual’s work assignments can be reasonably accomplished by teleworking AND you agree that the requesting individual is well enough and will have sufficient time to accomplish meaningful work during some or all of the time away.

While a formal telework agreement is not required for a temporary arrangement, documenting the arrangement will help clarify expectations. Documentation can be done by email and should include the reason for teleworking, the anticipated duration, expectations for employee availability, reporting requirements, and a description of the work to be completed.

When should an employee stay home from work?

Employees who have flu symptoms (a fever of 100.4 F or greater, plus a cough or sore throat and possibly other symptoms like chills, body aches, or vomiting) should stay home until their fever is gone for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicine.

Can I send an employee home if the employee demonstrates or complains of flu-like symptoms?

You should encourage an employee who is not feeling well to return home. Explain that returning home is in the employee’s best interest and that of others in the workplace. An employee may use sick or other eligible accrued paid leave to cover such time away from work.

If an employee will not voluntarily return home to recuperate, contact your human resources consultant for assistance. Your HRC will help you determine whether the employee should be directed to leave and remain home until they have recuperated. If this occurs, the employee will be paid for the remainder of the day and may charge further sick time to accrued sick or other paid leave. Your human resources consultant may advise you to require a doctor’s note certifying that an employee who was sent home is medically cleared to return to work.

If the employee does not have a leave balance available, time off will be considered leave without pay (LWOP). However, overtime exempt employees will not be charged LWOP for partial day absences.

What should I do if a colleague or my supervisor is sick and comes to work?

If a coworker or supervisor is exhibiting flu-like symptoms that cause you concern, bring your concern to the attention of that person’s supervisor. If you remain concerned, contact your human resources consultant.

Will an employee need to report that they have the flu when they call in sick?

Although employees sometimes volunteer the reason they are requesting leave, they should not be required to explain symptoms or diagnosis. Managers are not asked to do flu-related absence reporting.

Will an employee need a doctor’s note in order to return to work after the flu?

No, unless there are special circumstances (e.g., unusual complications or if an individual was involuntarily sent home from work due to illness).

What should I do if an employee appears to be too ill to get home safely?

Encourage the employee to have someone pick them up from work or, if the employee is a faculty or staff UPass holder, he/she can take advantage of the Emergency Ride Home program that reimburses 90% of an emergency taxi ride fare. Learn more.

What leave options are available to an employee who needs time off work to care for an ill family member with flu-like symptoms?

Classified and professional staff employees may use accrued sick leave or other available accrued leave (annual leave, comp time, discretionary leave, personal holiday, or holiday credit) to care for an ill family member. If an employee does not have enough accrued leave to cover the time away from work, they will be put in leave without pay status until returning to work.

Academic student employees in classifications covered by the UW/UAW collective bargaining agreement may use paid leave if available. Hourly and student employees do not earn paid leave; therefore all time off is unpaid.

Can an employee use leave if their child’s school or child care facility (or a loved one’s elder care facility) is closed unexpectedly?

Yes. Classified and professional staff who must stay home or leave work early as a result of an unplanned closure of a school or child care or eldercare facility may use up to a maximum of three days each of vacation leave, sick leave, or leave without pay per calendar year. Other leave use may be allowed, depending on the terms of the specific employment program.

A temporary telework arrangement may be approved if you determine that the individual’s work assignments can be reasonably accomplished by teleworking and you believe that the employee will have time to accomplish their work.

Can an employee bring their child to work if the employee is unable to make alternative arrangements?

No, bringing children to work is not an option. Please encourage an employee in this situation to use leave and stay home while caring for their loved one.

What types of accrued leave can be used to cover time away from work due to illness or to care for an ill family member?

Classified and professional staff employees may use accrued sick leave or other eligible accrued leave (annual leave, comp time, discretionary leave, personal holiday, or holiday credit) to cover time away from work. If an employee does not have enough accrued leave to cover the time away from work, they will be put in leave without pay status until returning to work.

Academic student employees in classifications covered by the UW/UAW collective bargaining agreement may use paid leave if available. Hourly and student employees do not earn paid leave; therefore all time off is unpaid.

How can I tell how much leave a staff member has available?

If your department uses OWLS to maintain employee leave records, supervisors can check the leave balances for employees that report to them by logging into OWLS as a supervisor and selecting a record from the “employee list.”

Will employees be covered by FMLA if they are ill with flu or if they have a family member who is ill with flu?

Usually the flu does not meet the definition of a serious health condition under the FMLA unless an individual has a particularly serious case, or develops flu-related complications. FMLA may apply if an FMLA-eligible employee is caring for a family member with the flu and the family member requires inpatient care or continuing treatment by a health care provider. Contact your human resources consultant for assistance if you believe that a situation may be covered by the FMLA.

Are employees absent due to flu or flu-like illness eligible to receive shared leave?

The flu normally would not meet the “severe, extraordinary, or life-threatening” threshold requirements of the Shared Leave Program. However, if an individual is hospitalized due to complications from the flu, the situation may meet the program’s requirements.

Can I apply for Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)-covered leave if I get the flu or if I have a family member who is ill with flu?

In most situations the flu does not meet the definition of a serious health condition under the FMLA unless you develop complications. If you or your family member require inpatient care or continuing treatment by a health care provider for flu, the FMLA may apply. Please contact your human resources consultant for assistance if you believe that your situation may be covered by the FMLA.

Can I received shared leave while I’m out with the flu or flu-like illness?

Typically the flu does not meet the requirements of the Shared Leave Program which was developed for leave accruing employees who experience a severe, extraordinary, or life-threatening illness or injury and who have exhausted their accrued paid leave. However, if an individual develops complications from the flu that require hospitalization their situation may meet the program’s requirements.

How does Workers’ Compensation apply in a pandemic situation?

Workers’ compensation is a system established by state law that provides wage replacement, medical, and rehabilitation benefits to workers who are injured on the job. Because it is extremely difficult to trace the origin of a communicable disease, an illness such as the flu is usually not a covered illness. If you believe that your illness is related to your job, you can file a Labor & Industries claim through a physician’s office, clinic, emergency room or hospital. Learn more about Workers’ Compensation.