Employers need to be aware of the effect the H1N1 flu virus may have on its workforce this winter and be prepared to deal with issues that arise. According to the CDC the H1N1 flu virus attacks young children and young adults. This means many employees will either contract the H1N1 virus themselves or have a child that contracts the virus. The CDC is recommending that those that contract the virus stay home and away from the public for at least 24 hours after their fever is gone.

For employees with sick leave or paid-time-off (PTO), staying home to take care of a sick child or themselves does not present a problem. But there are employees who either have no available time off or have exhausted all their available time off. What can or should an employer do in that case?

Employers are under no obligation to provide those infected with the H1N1 virus any additional time off. Providing sick leave or PTO is not required, at this time, under any Iowa or federal law. There have been no requirements from Iowa or the federal government mandating that employers allow persons infected with the H1N1 virus time off from work (either paid or unpaid). However, persons infected with the virus may potentially spread it to others, thus resulting in a “pandemic” in your workplace. It may be possible for you to adopt policies which allow sick workers to stay at home. Examples of such policies include granting more PTO; allowing sick workers to “borrow” time from a future allotment; allow employees to work from home.


Even if none of the above options are appropriate for your work site, it is still important to stress preventative health options to your workers—washing hands, using antibacterial hand gels etc.