Despite estimates that 15% of the UK workforce would be struck down in the first wave of the illness, and advice to stay at home if suffering from its symptoms, retailers report little staff absenteeism. However, more widespread dispruption to staff availability is still expected, particularly if schools remain closed after the summer holidays.
Sir Liam Donaldson, the government's chief medical officer, warned this week that although the number of new cases was static, worse may yet be to come. "We're expecting a very big surge in the autumn, but we think this slowdown in the increase may give us a bit of breathing space to get on with our planning and ensure all the necessary measures are in place for the autumn."
Dave Newman, owner of Westhill Stores in Hastings, East Sussex has so far lost one staff member to swine flu. "He's fine now but it came on quite suddenly and I had to make sure that any other staff member he was in contact with didn't have it as well," Dave said. "I said that if they had any signs of flu they should stay at home."
However Dave is wary of panicking staff or customers unnecessarily. "I'm not going to make them wear masks while working or anything, just make sure they follow the basic hygiene rules."
To help avoid staff sickness, the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) urges retailers to make sure staff clean their hands regularly, cover mouths with a tissue when they sneeze and throw the tissue away immediately. If a staff member has symptoms, they should stay at home and consult their GP.
Retailers looking for help regarding swine flu precautions should contact the department of health website, www.dh.gov.uk or the swine flu hotline on 0800 1 513 513.