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To: Administrative Leadership Group, Department Chairs and Directors, Academic and Administrative Department Managers

From: Karen L. Davis, Vice President for Human Resources

Subject: Managing H1N1 Influenza in the Workplace

By now I hope that you have had a chance to read the August 27th letter from Russell Carey and Margaret Klawunn regarding H1N1 influenza. As noted in their letter, public health officials anticipate a higher than normal rate of influenza infection among the general population this year and, thus, we can anticipate a higher than normal rate of absenteeism among employees.  Although predictions vary, most reliable sources are suggesting that 30% to 50% of the employee population could get sick with H1N1 at some point during the six-month flu season. This is a higher rate of absenteeism than most units usually experience so it will be important to plan in advance for this scenario. 
As part of our planning effort, I encourage all department heads and supervisors to consider the following:

  • Look for opportunities (e.g. department/staff meetings) to remind your employees of the importance of good hygiene practices.  These were laid out in the memo from Russell and Margaret.  Key points include:
    • frequent hand-washing or frequent use of a hand sanitizer;
    • covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze;
    • coughing into your sleeve or elbow if you don’t have a tissue; and
    • avoiding touching your mouth, nose or eyes at anytime but especially when you are sick.
  • Remind employees that they should get the regular seasonal flu vaccine and that flu vaccine clinics will be available on-campus for faculty and staff.  Click here for information regarding the on-campus clinics.  In addition, employees can get the regular seasonal flu vaccine from their personal physician or from other clinics that are being set up throughout Rhode Island.  Click here for information regarding other flu clinics in RI.
  • If your department/unit is likely to come into contact with ill students, contact Environmental Health & Safety for assistance in providing or developing a specialized training and awareness session for your group. EHS will schedule some trainings sessions on  or you can email to request training for your group.
  • Stay home if you’re sick, and encourage your employees to do the same.  As leaders within the university, we need to set an example for others. If you’re sick, please stay home for at least 24 hours after you no longer have a fever, or signs of a fever, without the use of fever-reducing medicines. Brown is fortunate to have a very generous and flexible sick time policy for staff. Our policy allows employees to accrue up to 60 sick days that can be carried over from year to year.  Also, employees may use up to 12 sick days per year to care for sick family members.  (Our union employees have similarly generous sick leave benefits and should consult their respective agreements for more details)  As always, you should contact your HR Generalist for more information on our sick time policy or for guidance on situations in which employees are reluctant to go home for any reason.  
  • Remind your employees to make alternate dependent care plans now.  Many employees have young children at home and/or are the primary caretakers for parents or other adults.  As always, it’s best to plan in advance for alternate care arrangements should they become necessary. Often, these arrangements can be made with extended family, friends, and neighbors.  In addition, Brown offers back-up care through Work Options Group. Click here for more information.
  • Reassure your department that employees who have an ill family member at home with influenza but who themselves are well can continue coming to work as usual but should be encouraged to monitor their own health status on a daily basis.
  • Develop/update your department’s business continuity plans to include a higher than normal rate of absenteeism.  As with other disaster and emergency scenarios, your business continuity plans for a flu outbreak should include arrangements for allowing essential employees to work remotely if possible and/or for cross-training to develop back-up support for essential functions.  Please contact Joe Sarno, Toni Tinberg, or your HR Generalist if you would like more information on HR policies that support business continuity planning. For academic department chairs, directors,  and department managers who may not have formal plans in place, I encourage you to discuss with your colleagues the ways in which your department or center will aim to provide ongoing support for teaching, research, and other activities in the event of widespread illness among your staff.
  • Stay informed on the subject of H1N1 by continuing to monitor the H1N1 website maintained by Environmental Health & Safety.  This site includes Brown-specific information as well as links to external sites maintained by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and others.   Please note that the CDC site includes helpful information on symptoms of H1N1 and on prevention strategies.
  • Contact your HR Generalist with additional questions or concerns regarding any of these points via email or via the main HR phone line at 863-3175.

I hope this information is helpful to you.  Please feel free to forward this memo to others in your department as appropriate.  Thank you very much.

Embedded Link Reference:
August 27, 2009 Letter from Russell Carey and Margaret Klawunn regarding H1N1
More information regarding on-campus flu clinics
More information on RI flu clinics
Sick time policy
Back-up care information
H1N1 website