Changes in sick leave utilization at an academic medical center during the COVID-19 pandemic

Kelly Lancaster, Dmitry Tumin, Kendall M. Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic drastically changed work arrangements, but COVID-19's impact on employee leave utilization is unclear. The authors sought to understand how sick leave and vacation leave utilization changed during the pandemic among clinical and non-clinical departments at an academic medical center (AMC). Design/methodology/approach: Clinical departments were defined as work units with a primary mission of providing direct patient care. Per-person, per-month leave utilization data were obtained from the AMC's time-keeping system for 3 clinical departments and 4 non-clinical departments in the first 12 months of the pandemic and the preceding 12 months. Monthly data for each department were analyzed with mixed-effects regression. Findings: Available data represented 402 employees from 3 clinical departments and 73 employees from 4 non-clinical departments. The authors found no statistically significant change in sick leave utilization among either clinical or non-clinical departments. Vacation leave utilization decreased during the pandemic by 5.9 h per person per month in non-clinical departments (95% confidence interval [CI]: −8.1, −3.8; p < 0.001) and by 3.0 h per person per month in clinical departments (95% CI: −4.3, −1.7; p < 0.001). Originality/value: Among employees in clinical departments, the authors found no increase in sick leave utilization and a decrease in vacation utilization. These findings are concerning for presenteeism, risk of burnout or understaffing resulting in workers' inability to take time away from work in clinical departments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-156
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Workplace Health Management
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Jun 16 2023


  • Burnout
  • Leave utilization
  • Presenteeism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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