Workplace equipment supplier Slingsby is warning businesses to prepare for a major flu epidemic because many people are refusing to take time off work when they are ill which increases the chances of viruses spreading through workplaces.

Last year the Office National Statistics revealed the average number of sick days taken by workers fell to its lowest level since records began in 1993 with workers now taking an average of just 4.5 days per year. In 1993, the average was 7.2 days.

Lee Wright, Marketing Director at Slingsby, said: “Since the recession began in 2008, the average number of sick days has fallen every single year to its current all-time low and part of the reason for this is because employees are reluctant to take time off because of the threat of pay cuts and redundancies. Most employees want to avoid having a bad sickness record at the moment.

“A big problem with employees turning up at work when they are ill is that it can multiply problems by making them ill for longer and spreading germs around the workplace. Every year we are inundated with orders from all types of workplaces stocking up on products to help combat the spread of colds and flu and this year the problem could be magnified if employees insist on going to work when they are ill.”

Lee adds: “Employers have to be responsible and make sure they are aware when employees aren’t well and urge them to go home until they feel better. All workplaces should also take steps to try to prevent the spread of these viruses in order to limit the impact of them wherever possible.”

Slingsby has compiled the following advice to help prevent the spread of cold and flu viruses:-

  • Promote hand washing – This is the single most important means of preventing the spread of viral and bacterial infections. Frequent hand washing kills viruses that are acquired from touching surfaces used by other people so ensure all sinks and wash rooms have well stocked soap dispensers or antibacterial hand wash present.
  • Avoid touching your face – especially the nose, mouth and eyes, if you are around someone with a cold or have been touching surfaces in a public area.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has a cold or flu.
  • Use disposable cups and cutlery – These are good in busy environments because they can be thrown away after each use and prevent the accidental spread of viruses from sharing cups etc.
  • Keep surfaces clean – door knobs, keyboards, light switches, telephones, remote controls, desks and work surfaces can all harbour viruses for hours after their use by an infected person. Ensure surfaces are cleaned regularly with soap and water or a disinfectant solution.
  • Disposable Paper towels are good in kitchens and bathrooms for hand washing because germs can live on cloth towels.