Oct 26, 2021 - Health

Those who miss work without pay due to COVID also had food insecurity

Food insufficiency among those who missed a week of work due to having COVID-19 or care taking for someone with COVID
Data: Health Affairs; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Lower-wage workers in the U.S. were the most likely to report missing work due to COVID-19, but the least likely to have access to paid sick days or family leave, according to a new report out in Health Affairs on Monday.

Why it matters: The gaps in paid leave policies is the latest evidence of food insecurity experienced during the pandemic among Americans who had to miss work because they were sick or had to take care of someone who was sick.

Taking half a day off may result in lost wages worth a household's monthly budget of fruits and vegetables, the report says.

  • But "being forced to miss an entire week without pay could result in a substantial lack of food."

By the numbers: Census Household Pulse Survey data collected by the study authors over the past year and a half showed workers earning less than $50,000 were more than four times as likely on average as workers earning $100,000 or more to report missing a whole week of work due to COVID-19 last year.

  • Many low-income households, which are twice as likely to be unvaccinated, and people of color cited postponing their shot to avoid missing work and wages needed to afford necessities like food, the authors write.
  • On the flip side, experts have argued, expanding paid sick leave policies could have a positive impact on vaccination rates by offering workers time to get the shot and leeway to recover from potential vaccine side effects.

What to watch: Paid medical leave policies are among the major issues Congress remains at an impasse over this week.

Go deeper