Employers are being advised to offer vaccinations to their staff as three new strains of the flu virus look set to hit the UK this winter.

According to Bupa, employers can avoid large-scale sickness absence and disruptions to their business by taking action early.

The healthcare organisation said flu is one of the main causes of short-term sickness among workers in the UK and while most people recover from its symptoms in a week, their energy levels are often affected for some time afterwards.

This can have a negative impact on their productivity, especially if they rush back to work before they have fully regained their mental and physical strength.

Dr Peter Mace, assistant medical director at Bupa Wellness, said: "We are advising employers to protect their staff from these new strains of the flu virus, to avoid their staff being ill and away from work."

According to research carried out by the Consumer Health Information Centre in 2004, 44 per cent of employees believe their effectiveness at work is reduced as a result of colds and flu.