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Managing Through Flu Season:
UWHR's Guide for Managers

Planning for Flu Season

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

As a reminder, 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 the role managers plan in keeping our community healthy during the flu season.

Where is flu immunization available?
All health insurance plans available to benefits-eligible faculty and staff cover seasonal flu immunization.
What steps should managers take in preparation 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.
  • Refer employees to UWHR's Guide for Staff during Flu Season so that they understand what the University is asking each employee to do in order to keep our community healthy.
  • Look at the positions and projects within your workgroup(s) to evaluate which tasks can be completed from home (see information about 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 ITConnect Administrative Business Continuity Toolkit.
  • Take time in team meetings to discuss the challenges flu season can pose; ask employees to 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.

When An Employee Has Flu Symptoms

When should an employee stay home from work?
Following guidance from Public Health - Seattle King County, 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.
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). Supervisors who believe that they have special reason to be concerned about an employee's situation should contact their human resources consultant.

Caring for a Loved One

What leave options are available to an employee who needs 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 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, he/she 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.
What assistance is available for parents caring for children who no longer have a high fever, but are not well enough to return to daycare or school?

Please note, Virginia Mason has announced the closing of the TLC program. The last day of service is March 31, 2015. WorkLife is actively working to secure a new sick childcare service.

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 have flu-like symptoms. Please check the above web page for the most up-to-date information.
Can an employee use leave if their child's school/childcare facility and/or a loved one's elder care facility is closed unexpectedly?
Classified and professional staff who must stay home or leave work early as a result of an unplanned closure of a school or child/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 his/her child to work if the employee is unable to make alternative arrangements?
Bringing children to work is not an option. Please encourage an employee in this situation to use leave and stay home while caring for his/her loved one.

Dealing With Illness in the Workplace

Can I send an employee home if the employee demonstrates or complains of flu-like symptoms?
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, flu symptoms may include some or all of the following: fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting.
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 he/she has 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 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 should I do if I am concerned about the health of an employee that does not report to me?
If you are concerned about an employee exhibiting flu-like symptoms who does not report to you, bring your concern to the attention of that person's supervisor. If you remain concerned, contact your human resources consultant.
Can I require an employee showing symptoms of flu-like illness to wear a mask?
If an employee is displaying symptoms of flu-like illness, he/she should be encouraged to go home.
Will there be any new or revised 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 reporting unscheduled absences, requesting and returning from leave, and teleworking remain in effect.

Leave Administration

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, he/she 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?
Shared leave eligibility applies only to employees who accrue sick leave but have used all or almost all of their accrued paid leave due to their own or a family member's severe, extraordinary, or life-threatening illness or injury. 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.

Establishing Temporary Telework Arrangements

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.

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

View flu information for employees

Short staffed because of seasonal illness? Contact UTemp Staffing for qualified, professional temporary employees that fit your unit's needs.

Seasonal flu immunization is available through your health plan. Learn more on the UWellness website and discover other tips for staying healthy.