Flu jabs - A quick-start guide for small businesses

Every year, around 150 million working days are lost as a result of flu and other flu-related illnesses. It is amongst the most significant contributors to absenteeism in the UK, costing an estimated £6.75 billion annually.

Flu is also a very dangerous illness. It is highly debilitating, and highly contagious – a particularly unpleasant combination that can see outbreaks of flu run riot around workplaces with little warning.

As the winter period approaches, firms of every size need to consider ways in which they can protect their staff if they are to maximise their chances of working at full capacity throughout the cold season – and the flu jab is the first line of defence.

How much does it cost?

The flu jab is not expensive – and, when considered against the potential cost of lost working hours, the good sense of immunisation becomes clear.

There is a range of ways in which you might offer the flu jab to your employees. Cost-effective immunisation is available to even the very smallest businesses.

The smallest businesses may find it most efficient to use a High Street chemist. Boots, for example, currently offers two main options: employer-funded vouchers, and discount vouchers. With the fully employer-funded option, employees simply go to the chemist with their voucher and receive the vaccine, which you pay for – at a slightly lower price than that offered to walk-in customers. Under the discount scheme you pay nothing at all. Instead, you simply request a number of 15 per cent discount vouchers, which the employee then presents at the chemist. They then settle the balance themselves.

The third option, which is offered by a range of healthcare providers, involves a nurse making a visit to your workplace. This is normally only cost-effective for firms with more than 50 employees, and will normally attract a flat fee in addition to the cost of the individual vaccinations.

How else can I boost employee health?

A flu jab is one of the most important ways that you can protect your employees and your business during the winter – but employee health should be a year-long priority.

Too few small businesses spend enough time formulating a plan to help ensure that they keep their workforce healthy and happy. Many feel that they simply don’t have the time or resources to do so – but there are a few very simple steps that you can take to boost workforce wellbeing.

1. Encourage openness
All too frequently, workplaces are so highly strung that staff simply do not feel able to tell their employers when they have a problem. By encouraging employees to take time off when they need it, and by conducting proper back-to-work interviews, you can help to ensure that small problems do not get bigger – and that colds and bugs don’t get spread around the workplace.

2. Recognise stress
Small businesses are becoming better aware of the realities of stress in the workplace, but there remains a lack of awareness about the realities of the problem. Be aware to the signs of stress, and consider steps that you can take (including revisiting working patterns and workload) to prevent it becoming an issue.

3. Consider employee benefits
Finally, there is a range of employee benefits that you might consider offering in an effort to boost employee health. Think, for example, about offering discounted gym membership or a supported cycle purchase.