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Nasty U.S. Flu Season Poised to Exact Big Costs, Headaches for Employers

Phoenix Business Journal (01/10/13) Mike Sunnucks

This year’s flu season could be the worst in a decade and is poised to cost U.S. employers more than $10 billion. Challenger Gray & Christmas Inc. worries employees who are still concerned about job security and taking sick days in the postrecession economy will come to work sick and spread the flu to co-workers, prompting suggestions that employers limit meetings, allow for telecommuting, and reassure workers they will not lose their jobs or shifts if they call in sick.

“The economy is still on shaky ground and many workers continue to be worried about losing their jobs, despite the fact that annual layoffs are at the lowest level since the late 1990s. In this environment, workers are reluctant to call in sick or even use vacation days,” says John Challenger, chief executive officer of the employment company. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that on average the winter flu season costs U.S. employers $10.4 billion in direct costs such as co-pays and insurance for doctor visits, hospital stays, and prescription drug plans.