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The Impact of Precarious Work on Going to Work Sick and Sending Children to School Sick During the COVID-19 Pandemic
* 1, 2 , 1 , 1 , 1 , 3 , 3
1  University of Central Florida
2  Australian Catholic University
3  National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the number of individuals working under precarious work conditions. Precarious work captures the structural, financial, and social conditions that make work uncertain/unstable and workers vulnerable to mistreatment at work. Our purpose in the current study was to examine the consequences of precarious work conditions for the pandemic. In particular, building on the idea of precarious work as a condition that limits agency and engenders fear, we examined whether precarious workers were more likely to attend work while ill in general and, more specifically, while having the COVID-19 virus (i.e., presenteeism).

Study: In an on-going multi-wave longitudinal study, we surveyed 300 employees working fully on-site (i.e., in person) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Results: Multiple regression results from the first two waves revealed that worker vulnerability significantly predicted three sickness presenteeism variables (measured in terms of number of days): general presenteeism (going to work sick) (lagged b = 1.63, SE = .56, p < .01), presenteeism with confirmed or suspected case of COVID (lagged b = .94, SE = .38, p < .05), and going to work when a contact had a case of COVID (lagged b = 1.21, SE = .50, p < .05). Affective job insecurity significantly predicted secondary presenteeism, sending a sick child to school or daycare (lagged b = 1.04, SE = .38, p < .01). Our results further revealed that personal benefit from the organization’s COVID policies significantly moderated the relation between affective job insecurity and secondary presenteeism (p<.05). At each survey wave, 5-7% reported going to work with a confirmed/possible COVID case, 9-10% reported going to work despite a close contact with a confirmed/possible COVID case, and 11-15% reported sending a child to school or daycare sick.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that precarious work is a risk factor to virus spread.

Keywords: precarious work; presenteeism; schools; occupational health psychology; job insecurity