With winter approaching, the health of employees should be a concern for all businesses. Staff away for a few weeks as a result of influenza becomes serious when key personnel or large numbers are absent. When partners or children are affected then time away to care for those affected can also be debilitating.    

Surveillance of influenza and other respiratory viruses in the UK is undertaken throughout the year and collated by the Influenza Surveillance Team at Public Health England’s (PHE) National Infection Service, with weekly outputs published during the winter season between October (week 40) and May (week 20) the period when influenza typically circulates. So, we are beginning the 2019/20 season of monitoring.

A variety of data sources is collated to provide information on circulating influenza strains and antiviral resistance monitoring, timing of influenza activity and to provide rapid estimates of influenza-related burden within the community, on the health service and in relation to excess mortality. In addition, in-season and end-of-season monitoring of influenza vaccine uptake is undertaken.

Two important groups of people are recorded who either have to respond to or can readily spread the flu. Last year, influenza vaccine uptake for health-care workers in 2018 to 2019 increased to 70.3% compared to 68.7% in 2017 to 2018. Uptake in 2-3 year olds was 44.9% and in school-age children reception to school year 5 was 60.8%.

The World Health Organisation states that benefits of influenza vaccination vastly outweigh risks, a conclusion based on a series of evaluations of the effectiveness and safety of seasonal influenza vaccines. For business, the gains from both encouraging staff to be vaccinated and to have an organised vaccination programme at work can be significant especially if there were a severe flu outbreak. The benefits affect both individuals and communities.

The PHE’s ‘Stay Well This Winter’ campaign can be found here. Businesses can support the campaign in the following ways:

  • communicate the campaign messages to staff and customers on their social- and digital-media channels;
  • send e-mails to staff, reminding them to get their flu jab, if eligible;
  • print out and put up posters or print and distribute leaflets to staff and customers;
  • remind staff to watch out for neighbours, friends and family, particularly older and vulnerable people.

For large companies, the campaign materials have been designed to be co-branded. If you are interested in co-branding, contact the  PHE's Marketing Manager at daniel.ward@phe.gov.uk.

Resilience First will be holding an event on 25 March looking at healthy and resilient communities. See here for details.