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Controlling the flu season – save yourself a headache

Media release

12th March 2014

Controlling the flu season – save yourself a headache

Break out the hand sanitiser and keep a safe distance.

As flu season draws near, research has found that close to half of Kiwi employers report ill staff turning up for work when they should be at home.

This is despite 56% of employers saying they make a particular effort to encourage staff to stay away when sick.

With the potential to spread illness further, these stoic but ill employees could be more of a hindrance than help. The research estimated 6.1 million days of work absences cost the New Zealand economy $1.3 billion during 2012, at a median cost of $837 per employee.

Wellness in the Workplace is a joint study undertaken by the country’s largest health insurer, Southern Cross Health Society, New Zealand’s largest advocacy group for enterprise, BusinessNZ and specialist injury management provider Gallagher Basset.

The nationwide study of around 97,000 staff was carried out in June 2013 in order to benchmark absence levels among employees.

Peter Tynan, Southern Cross Health Society Chief Executive, said limiting the spread of illness within an organisation was essential to reducing the country’s billion dollar absence bill.

“It’s great to be committed to your job, and that should be celebrated, but the reality is that coming in when sick could actually cost your business a lot of money in lost productivity, disruption or temporary staff fees if others catch your bug.”

Unsurprisingly, small businesses with five or less employees are most likely to come into work ill. The bigger the organisation the more likely staff are to stay in bed.

But of real concern are public sector employees – with 83% likely to head into work when ill.

Tynan says there are two key ways a business could help to limit the impact of an employee’s sickness.

“Promote your culture of staying away when sick – it could be as simple as printing out a poster for the staff room or sending round a friendly email.

“To really tackle absence costs, employers should think about how they can help their team stay healthy at the outset, such as annual flu vaccinations.

Another really simple, inexpensive method is to provide plenty of hand sanitiser, tissues and wipes for cleaning surfaces. Other options could be activities to promote general wellness, such as an indoor sport challenge or a demonstration on healthy eating.”

The full Wellness in the Workplace 2013 survey can be found at:


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