Record number of US workers are calling in sick

The number of U.S. workers calling in sick reached record numbers this year and may stay that way until COVID-19 vaccines are widely distributed, according to Bloomberg. 

The number of people currently in the labor force who are out sick, known as absenteeism, has doubled in the pandemic. Almost 1.8 million workers were absent in November because of illness, nearly level with the record of 2 million from April, according to Labor Department data.

The latest Household Pulse Survey, a separate survey conducted by the Census Bureau, estimates that more than 11 million people weren't working because of COVID-19. The figures, based on responses in late November and early December, include those who did not report to work because they were worried about contracting or transmitting the virus and those caring for someone with COVID-19 symptoms.

Employee absenteeism is slowing the economic recovery in the U.S. and leading to supply chain disruptions. Manufacturing is especially affected by temporarily absent workers.

Some employees' decisions to call in sick were made easier in 2020 due in part to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump in March. It allows two weeks of paid sick leave for certain employees and permits leave for those who must care for a child and are unable to work as a result. 

The latest stimulus bill includes an extension of the act through March 31, but makes paid leave voluntary for employers rather than mandatory as it was in the first iteration. The act excludes essential workers.

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