The impact of the H1N1 and seasonal flu on Canadian workplace in November was similar to that of the massive power outage that hit Ontario and the Eastern United States in August 2003, according to data from Statistics Canada.
In November, 1.5 million employed people aged 15 to 69 reported they were absent from work as a result of H1N1 or seasonal flu, representing nine per cent of workers in that age group. On average, these absent workers lost 19.6 hours of work each, for a total of 29.5 million hours lost.
In the same month, 600,000 people in the same age group put in 8.6 million hours extra at work as a result of H1N1 or seasonal flu. The net effect was a loss of 20.9 million hours in November.
Similarity to blackout
The blackout that hit Canada and the U.S. in August 2003 cost 2.4 million workers in Ontario and Gatineau, Que., 26.4 million hours of work time. Deducting the 7.5 million hours of overtime worked, the net effect was a loss of 18.9 million hours.
Differences by gender, age
In November, 10.5 per cent of women reported work hours lost, somewhat higher than the proportion of 7.6 per cent among men. However, there was no difference in their average number of hours lost.
The age group most affected by H1N1 and seasonal flu was 30 to 44. In November, 11.8 per cent of workers in this age group lost hours, on average 18.8 hours each.
Newfoundland and Labrador hit hardest
In terms of average hours lost per absent worker, those in Newfoundland and Labrador lost 24.7 hours, the highest amount. Workers in Prince Edward Island (16.2 hours) missed the least amount of time, on average.
Impact on working parents
In November, 12.4 per cent of employees with children lost work hours as a result of the flu, nearly twice the proportion (6.9 per cent) among those without children.
Absenteeism due to the flu was highest among those with children aged 12 and under (15 per cent). However, workers who had children lost 19.1 hours on average, slightly less than the national average of 19.6 hours.
Hardest hit occupations
Not surprisingly, workers in social science, education, government service and religion (12.1 per cent) reported the highest rate of being absent from work due to the flu.
Workers employed in health occupations were the most likely to report working more hours in the month due to the flu — 10.5 per cent did so, for a total of two million extra hours. As a result, the net impact on hours for health workers was a loss of 76,000 hours, the smallest net loss of all occupational groups.