Survey: Workers Clueless about Employer Pandemic Flu Plans

October 27, 2006 ( - According to a new survey, many Americans remain clueless about their employer's plans to cope with a serious pandemic flu outbreak.

A news release from the Boston-based Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) said the survey found that (19%) of respondents were aware of any plan at their office to deal with such a pandemic flu problem.

Meanwhile, about one in five employed adults (22%) are very or somewhat worried that their employer would make them go to work even if they were sick while half (50%) believe that their workplace would stay open if public health officials recommended that some businesses in their community should shut their doors. Only about one-third (35%) of employed Americans think that if they stayed home from work, they would still get paid; 42% think they would not get paid, and 22% do not know.

Faced with a shutdown of their employer, the longer people are out of work, the greater the number of people who will face financial problems, respondents said. While most employed people (74%) believe they could miss seven to ten days of work without having serious financial problems, one in four (25%) said they would face such problems.

A majority (57%) think they would have serious financial problems if they had to miss work for one month and a total of three-fourths (76%) think they would have such problems if they had to stay home for 90 days. Only about three in ten (29%) say that if they had to stay away from the workplace for one month, they could swing it financially.

“These findings are a wake-up call for business, that employees have serious financial concerns and are unclear about the workplace plans and policies for dealing with pandemic flu,” said Robert Blendon, professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis at the school.

Cooperating with Officials

While, generally, the survey found that a large majority of Americans are willing to make major changes in their lives and cooperate with public health officials’ recommendations, the area where anticipated cooperation is lowest involved the workplace, according to the news release. While a majority (57%) of employed adults say they would stay home from work if public officials said they should, even if their employers told them to come to work, about one-third (35%) say they would still go to the office.

More than three-fourths of Americans say they would cooperate if public health officials recommended that for one month they curtail various activities of their daily lives, such as using public transportation, going to the mall, and going to church. More than nine in ten say they would stay at home away from other people for seven to ten days if they had pandemic flu. In addition, 85% say they and all members of their household would stay at home for that period if another member of their household was sick.

Nine in ten Americans (90%) say that if public health officials recommended that they and the other members of their household stay in their town or city, they were likely to stay.

The study was designed and analyzed by researchers at the HSPH. Fieldwork was conducted via telephone for the project by ICR/International Communications Research between September 28 and October 5, 2006.The survey was conducted with a representative national sample of 1,697 adults age 18 and over.

The complete survey and data are here , here and here .