HomeSmart LivingThis flu season, keep your employees safe and prevent your business from...

This flu season, keep your employees safe and prevent your business from falling ill

The dreaded 2024 influenza season is starting, reaching its most severe period generally between May and August.

Besides the physical symptoms and risks that flu poses to the general population, especially those people in higher risk groups, the cost of influenza on businesses can be significant, impacting productivity, employee absenteeism, healthcare expenses, and overall profitability.

Despite an effective influenza vaccine having been available for many years, flu continues to cause significant morbidity and mortality both in South Africa and worldwide, and has a detrimental effect on businesses, both directly and indirectly.

Statistics released by Human Capital Review estimate that absenteeism could cost South Africa as much as R19.144 billion annually, with flu accounting for 4.5 million days of absenteeism from work every year.

Office environments have many so-called “flu hot spots”, including the elevators, stair railing, bathroom door, printers or even the kettle or fridge. Flu spreads easily from person to person through droplet distribution when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or through hand-to-hand contact. In a work environment, where people are in close contact with each other, it is more likely for the flu virus to spread and infect other people too, who in turn can pass their flu onto their families and other people they come into contact with. This is becoming even more relevant as many workers return to the office post the COVID pandemic, with 76% of local CEOs preferring workers being back in the office full-time.

According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, seasonal flu results in between 6 000 and 11 000 people in South Africa dying as a result of complications every year

High risk individuals are also more at risk come flu season, and include the elderly, pregnant women and people with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, lung disease, tuberculosis and heart disease.

With businesses in South Africa already faced with numerous challenges including loadshedding, rising inflation and high energy prices, making the flu vaccine available to employees or implementing a corporate flu vaccine programme not only benefits your business, but is an important step towards protecting the health and safety of your employees. In fact, vaccinated employees can serve as a barrier to limit the spread of influenza and can reduce the transmission rate by as much as 78%.

Besides being vaccinated, which is the most effective way to prevent flu, anyone who suspects they have flu should stay home from work at least 4-5 days after the onset of symptoms and are at their most contagious during the first 3 days of their illness.

The flu vaccine, although not 100% effective, remains the best available form of protection against influenza. Those who have been vaccinated will also experience reduced symptoms, fewer visits to the clinic or doctor, reduced sick leave, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalisations.

Companies are urged to consider implementing a company vaccination programme as this is the most effective pre-emptive measure to protect your business, and your employees, this winter.


  1. National Institute for Communicable Diseases. Flu Season is Around the Corner (2019) at (website accessed on 30 January 2024)
  2. Tempia, S et al. Health and economic burden of influenza-associated illness in

South Africa, 2013-2015. Influenza Other Respir Viruses. 2019 Sep; 13(5): 484–495 at (website accessed on 11 December 2023)

  1. The True Cost of Absenteeism in the workplace. People Factor Magazine (2022) at ( (website accessed on 11 December 2023)
  2. Flu or Cold? Genesis Medical Scheme (2016) at (website accessed on 15 February 2024)
  3. KPMG – CEO Outlook South African edition: Potential growth in uncertain times (2022) at (website accessed on 15 February 2023)
  4. National Institute for Communicable Diseases. Influenza Season Approaching (2018) at (website accessed on 30 January 2024)
  5. International Monetary Fund. South Africa’s Economy Loses Momentum Amid Record Power Cuts (2023) at (website accessed on 11 December 2023)
  6. Verelst, F. Science Direct. Workplace influenza vaccination to reduce employee absenteeism: An economic analysis from the employers’ perspective (2021) at (website accessed on 11 December 2023)
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Preventing the Spread of Flu in the Workplace (2021) at (website accessed on 15 February 2023)

Abbott Laboratories S.A. (Pty) Ltd, Reg. No. 1940/014043/07, Abbott Place, 219 Golf Club Terrace, Constantia Kloof, 1709. Tel No.: 011 858 2000. Approval date: March 2024. Promotional Review Number: SAF2304894