This is a summary, written by members of the CITF Secretariat, of:

Adisesh A, Durand-Moreau Q, Labrèche F, Ruzycki S, Zadunayski T, Cherry N. Determinants of sickness absence duration after mild COVID-19 in a prospective cohort of Canadian health care workers. J Occup Environ Med. 2023 Aug 14. doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000002945.

The results and/or conclusions contained in the research do not necessarily reflect the views of all CITF members.

A CITF-funded study, published in the Journal of Occupation and Environmental Medicine, found that Canadian healthcare workers who had a positive SARS-CoV-2 test and were vaccinated against COVID-19 were less absent from work. Absenteeism from work declined with each vaccine dose and also declined when provincial guidelines made provision for early return to work based on clinical necessity (early call-back). Healthcare workers returned to work faster as the pandemic progressed. This study was led by Dr. Nicola Cherry (University of Alberta).

Key findings:

  • 1520 cases of COVID-19 were reported by 1454 healthcare workers (HCWs) in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, or Quebec who were employed at the time of infection. The majority were female (85%) and 83% had received at least two vaccine doses against COVID-19. Most cases (77%) occurred in 2022.
  • Days off work were reduced as the pandemic progressed and as the number of vaccine doses received increased. Time off work was not related to sex, age, marital status, or having a child at home.
  • Time off work was longer when symptoms were more severe and shorter when there was a provision for early call-back. Guidelines for time off work varied by jurisdiction and by pandemic phase (e.g., 14, 10, or 5 days).
    • In a sub-group analysis, 718 episodes were reported in which HCWs returned to work within 5 days. Of these, 593 returned at a time when there was a provision for early call-back. Among those who returned under early call-back, 79% (468/593) reported symptoms compared to 68% (85/125) among those who returned within 5 days during a period with no early call-back.
    • There was little difference in reported post-COVID sequelae among those who returned within 5 days under early recall [21% (125/593)] compared to those who returned during a period with no early call-back [18% (23/125)].

4964 Canadian healthcare workers were asked how many working days they had missed after a positive COVID-19 test. Only participants with completed COVID-19 episodes who were absent ≤ 31 working days and not admitted to hospital were included in the analysis.