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Flu Epidemic Costs Employers Millions of Dollars in Lost Productivity

The nation’s flu epidemic has hit employers hard and has cost them $47.8 million of lost productivity so far this month.

Companies across the country are being plagued by staff shortages as employees take sick leave in droves, putting added pressure on those staff still at work by making them cover for unwell colleagues.

Public records show 1 in 217 Australians – a total of 113,392 cases – have had the flu up until August 29 and it’s the worst outbreak since public records began.

In July there were 88,357 cases – compared to just 9045 in July last year.

New analysis compiled by financial comparison website has found there has been an estimated $90.4 million in lost labour productivity this year due to the flu and $47.8 million so far in August alone.

The calculations are based on the number of estimated flu cases in August and 65 per cent of the adult population employed, while assuming sufferers take three to five days off work.

The site’s spokeswoman Bessie Hassan said the “potential business impact in terms of lost staff hours and sales is huge, particularly for small businesses who don’t have enough resources or can’t afford to employ temporary staff at short notice.”

Kathleen Newcombe, chief executive of one of the nation’s largest recruitment agencies, Sarina Russo Group, said the flu season has been extremely draining on businesses.

“However, rather than hire temporary personnel to cover for staff sickness, we’ve seen more and more businesses this year choosing to battle through staff shortages,’’ she said.

“It’s been a cost-saving strategy with the feedback being they’d rather avoid the expense of bringing someone in short term.”

Pharmacy Guild of Australia’s spokesman Greg Turnbull said there had been a significant rise in the number of unwell people seeking leave of absence certificates from pharmacists and also medication to help their recovery.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s director of workplace relations Scott Barklamb urged more Australians to consider getting vaccinated in a bid to reduce illness.

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