HR Operations

Working through flu season

COVID-19 and the annual flu season

Preparing for the annual flu season, including getting a flu vaccine and staying home when you are sick, is more important than ever this year due to COVID-19. Visit the University’s novel coronavirus information website for more information about COVID-19. While time off options related to the flu and for COVID-19 overlap, there are also important differences. Review requirements posted on UWHR’s Working during COVID-19 page to compare and don’t hesitate to contact your leave specialist with questions.

Prevention and recovery

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 telework information so that temporary telework arrangements can be set up quickly and easily after approval.
  • See how to connect to UW networks from home.
  • 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. Temporary telework arrangements must be approved by the requesting employee’s supervisor.

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 time off 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 human resources consultant (HRC) will help you determine whether the employee should be directed to leave and remain home until they have recuperated. Your HRC 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 paid time off available, unpaid time off should be used. However, overtime exempt employees will not be charged unpaid time off for partial day non-FMLA absences related to the flu.

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 time off, 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 U-PASS holder, the employee can take advantage of the Emergency Ride Home program that reimburses 90% of an emergency taxi or ride hailing service fare.

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

Contract covered, classified non-union, and professional staff may use accrued sick or other available accrued time off (vacation, compensatory time, discretionary leave, personal holiday, or holiday credit) to care for an ill family member. If an employee does not have enough accrued time off, they will use unpaid time off until returning to work. Temporary hourly and students employees may use sick time off.

Academic student employees in classifications covered by the UW/UAW collective bargaining agreement may use paid time off if available.

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

Yes. Contract covered, classified non-union, 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, sick, or unpaid time off per calendar year. Other time off may be allowed, depending on the terms of the specific employment program or collective bargaining agreement.

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 time off and stay home while caring for their child.

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 also 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. Employees should contact their HR leave specialist for assistance if they believe their situation may be covered by the FMLA.

Are employees who are 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 HR leave specialist 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 flu 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.

Coronavirus FAQs and resources: Find FAQs developed for the UW community and UW CareLink resources on how to remain healthy and deal with the emotional impacts of the outbreak. (UW CareLink information is offered in English and Chinese.)