Workplace flu vaccinations: Do you have a duty to provide them for your employees?

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Health Assured team

14 October 2019

Flu season is fast approaching. The evenings are getting darker, the mornings are frosty and the scent of pumpkin spice is in the air.

For those of us who suffer in the scorching summer heat, this is great news—but for many people who’re more vulnerable to flu, it can be unpleasant.


What is ‘the flu’?

Sometimes, people complain of ‘the flu’ when what they have is a nasty common cold. While this isn’t to be sniffed at, actual flu—or influenza—is more serious. It has a number of obvious symptoms:

  • A sudden fever
  • Temperatures of over 38C (100F)
  • Aches all over
  • Feelings of tiredness and lethargy
  • A dry cough
  • A sore throat
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Diarrhoea or tummy pain
  • Feeling sick and being sick (malaise)

These symptoms come on fast—within a few hours—whereas a cold is a much more gradual attack.


When is flu season in the UK?

Flu is generally at its most potent and infectious during the months of December through March, though outbreaks are common as early as October.

Interestingly, influenza isn’t a single virus, rather a combination of different strains that vary from year to year. The WHO compiles recommendations of different vaccines to include in each year’s flu injection.

Influenza, then, is a serious issue, and one that has a significant cost to businesses. It’s estimated that flu jabs for employees could save the economy almost £29 million a year. But are you duty-bound to provide them?

For the most part, no. Most employers aren’t required to provide the jab, or allow time off for employees to get one—with health and social care workers a notable exception.

Department of Health guidelines states these workers must be provided with vaccinations by their employer. There are a few ways to do that:

  • Private healthcare providers will come to your workplace and carry out the procedure. This is quick and convenient and results in minimal time away from work (in most instances).
  • You can purchase flu vouchers, which employees redeem at participating pharmacies.
  • Certain employees are eligible for free vaccinations—those aged over 65, pregnant, or with certain medical issues like compromised immune systems.

It’s up to the employer whether to provide time off—and whether that time off will be paid.

But given the benefits of flu vaccinations in the workplace:

  • reduced sickness absence potentially to the tune of nearly £30 million
  • prevention of serious medical events
  • reduced time lost, if vaccinations are carried out in the workplace
  • improvements to morale

Can you really afford to let your people get sick this winter?


Call Health Assured on 0844 892 2493 if you have questions about this topic—we’re here to help.

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