- Tuesday, 29 November 2011 11:13
- Written by Peter Roy
As a contractor, time is money. Literally, if you’re too sick to work, you don’t get paid. It’s as simple as that. And that’s why many contractors should have been disturbed to hear the comments made in January of this year by the chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, Dr Clare Gerada.
In an interview with the BBC, she said that healthy people who want the flu jab should wait until everyone in “at risk” groups has been vaccinated and even went as far as to suggest that people not classed as “at risk” should be banned from paying for the flu jab privately at pharmacies as chemists began to run out of the vaccine.
Although it varies from person to person, the primary symptoms of flu can last on average of 7 days; and, in 2009, the Department of Health even considered extending self certification to 14 days for swine flu (although this was subsequently overturned after employers raised fears of permanent employees “playing the system”). Typically, as a contractor, you will tend to keep working when you are ill to keep earning money; but doing this will weaken your immune system, which will mean your recovery will probably take longer than if you had rested. That might all sound like doom and gloom but it doesn’t have to be that way. The good news is that, with a little bit of thought, you can be well prepared for the flu season.
Getting the Flu Jab
Last year, the UK ran out of the flu vaccine when health care professionals got caught off guard by a massive late demand from the so called “worried well” which was generated by an unprecedented level of media interest in the possibility of a flu pandemic. The fact is that the flu vaccine had been in plentiful supply for almost three months before the “rush” in January. As a contractor, with possibly thousands of pounds of lost earnings at stake if you are too sick to work, you should make it a priority to get the flu jab early in the season (which typically starts from mid October onwards). It is worth checking with your GP to find out whether you are eligible for the free vaccine but, if you are essentially healthy, it is likely that you will need to pay privately. The easiest place to get a flu vaccine is through a supermarket pharmacy such as Morrisons, Asda, or Tesco with prices varying between £7-£15. You will need to make an appointment in most cases but these can be arranged out of working hours which means that it does not need to impact your client.
Simple but effective ways to avoid getting the Flu
Although getting the flu jab is the most effective way to avoid getting the flu, if you are working at a client site, there will inevitably be a host of colds and other bugs also “doing the rounds”. These three simple techniques should help to isolate you as much as possible:Wash your hands regularly – surfaces such as desks, keyboards, monitors, documents, and door handles are breeding grounds for all sorts of nasty bugs; remember to wash your hands regularly, and particularly before you eat.
Don’t touch your face – if you are working long hours then you probably get tired during the day (particularly in the winter) and you are therefore more likely to touch your face and rub your eyes; the tear ducts provide any bugs on your hands with a shortcut into your body and you are almost guaranteed to get sick as a result. Get into the habit of washing your hands before you touch your face; keeping a small tube of antiseptic gel by your desk will provide a useful visual reminder.
- Reduce contact with colleagues who are sick – offices are notorious breeding grounds for illness and disease so, if you are working at a client site, think about whether you can minimise your exposure. That might mean simple things like taking a hot desk in a quiet corner of the office, asking to work remotely, reducing your number of meetings, and even avoiding unnecessary handshakes.
Peter Roy is a freelance project manager; he got his Flu Jab in October.Comments