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Employers concerned over swine flu ‘absenteeism’

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Employers have been expressing worries that the swine flu outbreak may be encouraging absenteeism.

People who think they may have contracted the H1N1 virus can phone a NHS swine flu hot line or visit the corresponding Department of Health website.

If their symptoms are diagnosed as swine flu, they are given a course of antiviral medicine and can take seven days off work without the need for a doctor’s sick note.

However, the Employment Law Advisory Service, a firm that specialises in employment regulations, has claimed that they have been contacted by over 1,000 employers who are concerned that the system is open to abuse.

Peter Mooney, the head of consultancy at ELAS, said: “Managers feel that some staff are simply taking advantage of concerns about the transmission of swine flu to take an extra few days off work.

“Because the emphasis has been on not going to your local GP but using websites to assess the infection and the risk to others, those who stay at home are not going to need a doctor’s note or have too many people calling on them to see how they feel.”

With predictions suggesting that up to 12 per cent of the working population could absent from work with genuine cases of swine flu at any point during the winter, employers are being advised to make sure they have plans in place to cover for those members of staff off sick and to impress upon employees that absence levels will be scrutinised to prevent any unscrupulous behaviour.