Employees who do not telework currently at highest risk of Covid infection

While the number of coronavirus infections is increasing very rapidly in Belgium, the impact on people’s job is “unprecedented,” according to research by KU Leuven, UHasselt and Idewe.

In just one week, the average incidence per 100,000 in the working population has increased by a third. It is also a third higher than in the general population, the results show.

“This suggests that it is mainly active, working adults who are currently infecting each other. The highest number of infections occurs in childcare, followed by education,” said professor Lode Godderis in a press briefing on Friday.

The highest infection rates are registered in the childcare sector, which is the first sector to pass the 10,000 incidence mark per week since the beginning of the pandemic (11,182). The number of infections in primary and secondary schools also reached unprecedented heights (respectively almost 7,000 and more than 8,000 per 100,000 per week).

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These high infection rates mainly translate into a massive (temporary) loss of personnel in many sectors: with 1,000 new weekly infections, the researchers predict that absenteeism will increase by 1.7% to 2.5%, and will be higher in sectors or companies that do not and/or cannot telework.

“However, this absenteeism can also be caused by employees having to stay at home in quarantine,” Godderis said. “If we only predict absence from work due to illness, the model predicts an increase in absenteeism of 0.44% for every 1,000 new cases, this time over two weeks. This is an average across all sectors.”

However, in a sector where teleworking is possible, such as the banking sector, the effect of the Covid-19 incidence on sick leave is remarkably lower (0.15%) than the average of 0.44% for all sectors combined.

“It shows that teleworking is an important measure for preventing the spread of the virus at work,” Godderis said. “It helps to reduce staff absenteeism and therefore ensures the continuity of the business.”

Currently, teleworking is mandatory for four days a week, according to the coronavirus barometer. More info can be found here.


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