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September 25, 2009

HR Fact Friday (pt II): Flu Outbreak Could Give Momentum to Paid-Sick-Days Bill

An outline posted at www.flu.gov recommends that employers ‘establish policies for employee compensation and sick-leave absences unique to a pandemic.’ Preparations for an outbreak of the H1N1 flu virus this fall could give momentum to legislation that would require employers to provide paid sick days.

Even with the government urging companies to keep sick workers at home, the measure faces significant legislative obstacles. But advocates are using the flu scare to promote the bill. Titled the Healthy Families Act, it would enable workers to accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work up to a total of 56 hours, or seven days.

Providing days off is exactly what the government is asking companies to do if their employees catch the flu. An outline posted at www.flu.gov recommends that employers “establish policies for employee compensation and sick-leave absences unique to a pandemic.”

Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states, “Regardless of the size of the business or the function or services that you provide, all employers should plan now to allow and encourage sick workers to stay home without fear of losing their jobs.”

Advocates of paid sick leave couldn’t have written it better themselves.  Supporters also are making the case on Capitol Hill that the workers least likely to have paid sick days are those in the food service, child care and health care sectors. Opponents of the paid-sick-leave bill acknowledge that the public health argument can be compelling. But they point to the economy as a reason not to move forward with the bill, which they say would place a mandate on companies trying to cope with the recession.

The legislative calendar is another impediment. Health care and energy reform as well as appropriations bills presumably would all come before paid sick days. The measure has had a hearing in the House.

But action in the Senate may be further delayed by a change in leadership at the Health Education Pensions and Labor Committee, where Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has taken over from Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, who died in August. Kennedy was the Senate champion of the paid-sick-days bill.

As a practical matter, even if the measure were approved this fall, it would likely take months for the Department of Labor to issue regulations to implement the law.

Source: Workforce.com, Mark Schoeff Jr.

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HR Fact Friday (pt I): H1N1 (Swine Flu) Vaccine Expected to Be Available in October

Filed under: General HR Buzz — Tags: , , , , 6:49 am

The Food and Drug Administration has approved 4 vaccines against the H1N1 flu virus (formerly known as swine flu) for 2009. The FDA expects the vaccines to be distributed nationally in October. Based on preliminary data from adults participating in clinical studies, the 2009 H1N1 vaccines induce a robust immune response in most healthy adults 8 to 10 days after a single dose, as occurs with the seasonal influenza vaccine.

As with the seasonal influenza vaccines, the 2009 H1N1 vaccines are being produced in formulations that contain thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative, and in formulations that do not contain thimerosal.  The FDA said that people with severe or life-threatening allergies to chicken eggs, or to any other substance in the vaccine, shouldn’t be vaccinated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that H1N1 vaccination efforts focus on 5 key groups of people:

  • Pregnant women,
  • People who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age,
  • Healthcare and emergency medical services personnel,
  • Individuals between the ages of 6 months through 24 years of age, and
  • People from ages 25 through 64 years who are at higher risk for novel H1N1 because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems.

The agency said that the following groups should receive the vaccine before others if the vaccine is initially available in extremely limited quantities:

  • Pregnant women,
  • People who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age,
  • Healthcare and emergency medical services personnel with direct patient contact,
  • Children 6 months through 4 years of age, and
  • Children 5 through 18 years of age who have chronic medical conditions.

The CDC said that once the demand for vaccine for the prioritized groups has been met at the local level, programs and providers should begin vaccinating everyone from ages 25 through 64 years.  Health officials are recommending that the H1N1 vaccine be used alongside the seasonal flu vaccine.

Source: HR.BLR.com

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