September 10, 2009

Most businesses can’t handle flu outbreak

Only one-third of U.S. businesses say they could sustain their business if half of their workers were absent for two weeks due to H1N1 flu, a survey indicates.

The survey is part of an ongoing series on the country's response to the H1N1 flu outbreak undertaken by the Harvard Opinion Research Program at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Businesses need to start planning how to adjust their operations to account for greater absenteeism and to slow the spread of H1N1 in the workplace, Robert J. Blendon says in a statement.

One-fifth of the businesses surveyed said they could avoid problems for one month with half their employees out. Seventy-four percent of businesses offer paid sick leave for employees, but only 35 percent of businesses offer paid leave that would allow employees to take care of sick family members and 21 percent would allow paid time off to care for children if schools/daycares were closed.

Fifty-two percent of businesses say they think there will be a more severe outbreak of H1N1 flu in the fall but if such an outbreak occurs, 84 percent say they are concerned it will negatively affect their business.

The telephone survey of 1,057 businesses, conducted July 16-Aug. 12, has a margin of error of plus/minus 4.2 percentage points.