Winter bugs – What is Acceptable Holiday Sickness?

Tough question – some people get knocked for six by winter bugs whereas others prefer to power through.  But it’s not all about your ability to get through the day..

How to protect others from Christmas bugs:

  • With flu and common colds, you are at your most contagious just before and during the first two days of symptoms – often colleagues would appreciate it if you didn’t continue coming into the office if you are likely to pass your illness on to others
  • The same applies of your children are suffering – it is easy to ignore your own symptoms in order to focus on caring for others.  Take time off to care for children or family members suffering from winter bugs but remain off work if you start to show symptoms too.

How much sickness is acceptable?

HR departments know that the winter time is the most common time for colds and flu and even for food poisoning, migraines and hangovers!  However, your normal absence policies still apply – you can have a certain number of days self-certificated (often up to 7 days), after which, a doctors note may be required.  Some companies and public sector organizations apply interventions and warning systems if a lot of absence is accrued within a given time frame.  However, if you are ill during a period of statutory holiday entitlement, you can claim this as sick leave. (

How can you minimize employee sickness during the winter months?

  • Be militant in providing antibacterial hand wash, enforcing cleaning routines and ensure signs encouraging hand-washing and use of tissues.
  • Ventilate – we all know how bad air-conditioning systems are for spreading germs
  • Be careful when providing buffets/pastries in meetings and events – ensure there are plenty of serving tongs etc to minimize contain between hands and shared food
  • Wiping desks, keyboards and telephones are often not included in a cleaner’s duties but these can be a breeding ground for germs – consider making antibacterial wipes available for staff to use or add this to cleaning requirements

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