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When to Call in Sick:
UWHR's Guide for Employees During Flu Season

If you live in King County, the Public Health – Seattle King County site has information about the flu, a vaccine finder tool, and details on the flu in multiple languages.

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.

All human resources policies regarding leave use remain in effect. The UWHR website provides complete information on staff leave benefits and manager leave administration.

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.

If You are Feeling Sick

When should I call in sick?
If you 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), follow your unit's practice for notifying your supervisor that you are sick and need to stay home. It's important to minimize contact with your colleagues and others until you are no longer contagious. The department of Public Health – Seattle & King County advises those with flu symptoms to stay home until a fever is gone for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicine
Will I be able to use paid leave for time away from work while I am sick?
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 you do not have enough accrued leave to cover your time away from work, you will be put in leave without pay status until you return 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.
If your department uses OWLS to maintain employee leave records, you can check your available leave balances by logging into Employee Self-Service (ESS) and clicking on the "Vacation and Sick Leave" tab. If your department uses another authorized alternative system, check with your department's timekeeper.
Will I need to get a note from my doctor in order to return to work after the flu?
In accordance with current advice from public health authorities, such certifications will not be required for flu or flu-like illness unless there are special circumstances (e.g., unusual complications or if you were involuntarily sent home from work due to illness). Supervisors who believe that they have special reason to be concerned about an employee's situation should contact their human resources consultant.

If a Family Member is Sick or Affected by a School or Child/Elder Care Center

What leave options are available if I need time off work to care for an ill family member with flu-like symptoms?
As with any illness, 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 care for an ill family member. If you do not have enough accrued leave to cover your time away from work, you will be placed on leave without pay status until you return 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.
What assistance is available for parents caring for children who no longer have a high fever, but are not well enough to return to child care or school?
Benefits-eligible employees working .50 FTE or more and academic student employees with mildly ill children (ages one to 12 years) are eligible to use the Tender Loving Care (TLC) program at Virginia Mason Medical Center. Learn more.
Please note that TLC will be evaluating their own guidelines for accepting children who may be experiencing flu-like symptoms. Please check the above web page for the most up-to-date information.
What should I do if my child's school/childcare facility and/or my loved one's elder care facility is unexpectedly closed and I need to provide care because no other backup care provider is available?
If you are responsible for the care of children or other loved ones that need continual care, the best thing you can do is to plan in advance for emergencies. Classified and professional staff that have to stay home or leave work early as a result of an unplanned closure of a school, childcare, or eldercare facility, may use up to three days each per year of accrued sick leave, annual leave, compensatory time, personal holiday, holiday credit, discretionary leave, or leave without pay for emergency child/elder care.
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 I bring my child to work if I am unable to make alternative arrangements?
No, but you may use leave to stay home and care for your loved one.

When the Flu Becomes a More Serious Condition

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?
The FMLA provides job protected leave and benefits coverage to employees who meet eligibility requirements. If you have accrued paid leave, you can choose to use it while on FMLA leave, otherwise FMLA leave is unpaid. Learn more about UW's Family Medical Leave and Family Care Act policies.
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.
Are employees out with flu or flu-like illness eligible to receive shared leave?
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.

Establishing Temporary Telework Arrangements During the Flu Season

May my supervisor approve a temporary telework arrangement if I have mild symptoms, a health condition that could be worsened by exposure to the flu, or need to stay home to take care of a sick family member?
Yes, telework may be approved if your supervisor determines that your work assignments can be reasonably accomplished by teleworking and you are well enough and have sufficient time to accomplish meaningful work during some or all of your time away.

Feeling Sick at Work

If I become ill at work, how can I get home safely if am not feeling well enough to drive or take the bus?
Staff and faculty UPass holders are eligible for the Emergency Ride Home program that reimburses you 90% of an emergency taxi ride fare. Learn more.
Can I be sent home if I am sick at work?
Please do not report to work if you have flu-like symptoms. The best way to recover from the flu and not spread it to others is to stay home and rest. If you report to work while you are exhibiting flu-like symptoms, your supervisor may encourage you to return home until you are well, out of concern for your own welfare and that of others in the workplace. You may use sick or other eligible accrued paid leave to cover your time away from work. If you do not have a leave balance available, time off will be considered leave without pay (LWOP). NOTE: Overtime exempt employees are not to be charged LWOP for any partial day absence.
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.

Staying Healthy

What can I do to lessen my chances of getting the flu?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following everyday practices for avoiding the flu:
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

Workers' Compensation

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'g Compensation.

HR Policy

Will there be any new policies enacted because of a severe flu outbreak?
At this time we do not anticipate any new or revised policies to be enacted because of seasonal flu. Current policies and procedures for requesting leave, returning from leave, teleworking, and instructing an employee who becomes ill at work to return home remain in effect.

Visit Benefit's Flu Season Resources for more flu-related information.