Unscheduled absences have already hit a five-year high and cost an average of $610 per employee, according to CCH, a provider of employment law information.
Many of the nation's scarce remaining flu shots will be shipped directly to pediatricians, nursing homes and other places that care for high-risk patients, under a plan between the government and maker Aventis Pasteur.
The impact is already being felt:
Flu vaccination and wellness programs can save companies up to $12 billion annually. Some companies are rationing vaccines only to workers in high-risk groups, but many simply have no vaccines to give.
Productivity losses can also come because workers who have children or elderly parents with the flu often have the right for time off to care for them under federal law, says David Raizman, a Los Angeles labor lawyer.