Workers should stay away from the office if they get ill this winter instead of trying to ‘grin and bear it’, a top health official has said.
With Covid cases still high and the UK anticipating a deadly flu season, Dr Jenny Harries urged people to take a sick day if needed.
The UK Health Security Agency chief executive said the traditional approach of soldiering on and going into the office regardless should be a thing of the past.
Speaking to Times Radio, she said she hopes the public will now realise when they have symptoms that might be infectious and that their employer will support them to stay away from work if necessary.
She said: ‘I think, particularly as we approach the flu season for example, whereas people traditionally in the UK have sort of grinned and borne their infectious disease and then gone into work and spread it around, I’m hoping that, as we go through winter, people when they are symptomatic will generally recognise that and stay away and be supported to do so.’
As well as Covid and flu, many have reported catching what’s been called the ‘worst cold ever’ already this year.
Norovirus – which causes severe vomiting – is also circulating with people’s natural immunity levels decreased by months in lockdown.
Dr Harries said the vaccination programme means blanket work from home guidance is unlikely to be needed again this winter but she cautioned employers not to bring all staff back to the office in one go.
‘If everybody returned immediately to work without due consideration, then I think it’s likely we would see more cases over a short period of time, depending on whether they were wearing face coverings, whether they were taking appropriate precautions,’ she said.
‘But, of course, most people are protected now, so even people who are doubly vaccinated are becoming infected, (but) they are not becoming seriously ill and they are not dying in the way that we saw previously.’
There have been increasing calls for people to return to offices, after the pandemic caused a widespread switch to working from home.
At the recent Conservative Party conference Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued a fresh call for workers to return to ‘buzzing’ town centres, adding ‘we will and must see people back in the office’ as he continued his drive to end working from home.
Mr Johnson himself is working from Marbella this week after deciding to take his family on holiday while the Commons is in recess.
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