Publication Date



[Excerpt] Coming to work when we are sick raises some interesting questions: How contagious are we? Should we stay home? What could be done to prevent disease transmission to others, with its effects on absenteeism, performance, and efficiency, as well as in the interests of public health? Is working from home an option? Shouldn’t the employer provide sick leave or flextime to discourage working when sick? Without sick leave, aren’t people more likely to go to work sick, as well as send sick kids to school? Should an employer sponsor, or even require, vaccinations?

When trying to change policy and attitudes on communicable infectious diseases in the workplace, there is a good business case to be made. Workplaces traditionally plan for a variety of crises – especially infrastructure damage and its recovery – but planning and prevention for diseases seems to get overlooked, despite its very significant cost in both human suffering and dollars. Some diseases that have had a costly impact on businesses include mumps, measles, norovirus, SARS, tuberculosis, and whooping cough.


Required Publisher Statement
© Cornell University. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

Recommended Citation
Brown, N. J. (2019). Communicable diseases and the workplace [Electronic version]. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, Workplace Health and Safety Program.