Leave entitlements, time off work and the household financial impacts of quarantine compliance during an H1N1 outbreak
1 Centre for Women’s Health, Gender and Society, Melbourne School of Population Health, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
2 Centre for Health Policy, Programs and Economics, Melbourne School of Population Health, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
3 Vaccine & Immunisation Research Group, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and Melbourne School of Population Health, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
4 Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory, North Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
5 National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
6 Victorian Government Department of Health, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
7 Centre for Molecular, Environmental, Genetic and Analytic (MEGA) Epidemiology, Melbourne School of Population Health, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
8 McCaughey Centre, Melbourne School of Population Health, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
BMC Infectious Diseases 2012, 12:311 doi:10.1186/1471-2334-12-311Published: 20 November 2012
The Australian state of Victoria, with 5.2 million residents, enforced home quarantine during a H1N1 pandemic in 2009. The strategy was targeted at school children. The objective of this study was to investigate the extent to which parents’ access to paid sick leave or paid carer’s leave was associated with (a) time taken off work to care for quarantined children, (b) household finances, and (c) compliance with quarantine recommendations.
We conducted an online and telephone survey of households recruited through 33 schools (85% of eligible schools), received 314 responses (27%), and analysed the subsample of 133 households in which all resident parents were employed.
In 52% of households, parents took time off work to care for quarantined children. Households in which no resident parent had access to leave appeared to be less likely to take time off work (42% vs 58%, p=0.08) although this difference had only borderline significance. Among parents who did take time off work, those in households without access to leave were more likely to lose pay (73% vs 21%, p<0.001). Of the 26 households in which a parent lost pay due to taking time off work, 42% experienced further financial consequences such as being unable to pay a bill. Access to leave did not predict compliance with quarantine recommendations.
Future pandemic plans should consider the economic costs borne by households and options for compensating quarantined families for income losses.