Younger Workers Leading the Charge on Taking Sick Leave Post-Pandemic. 

Tom BowenEconomist

Since the onset of the pandemic, workers in the US have reevaluated the relationships between their personal and professional lives, placing significant emphasis on protecting their physical and mental health. One sign of this shift over the past four years has been the increase in the frequency with which workers have been taking sick leave.

Platform data from Gusto’s 300,000+ small and mid-sized businesses shows a substantial increase in the share of professional services workers taking sick leave from 2019 to 2023. So far this year, 30% of all employees working in the professional services industries with an active PTO policy have taken sick leave. That’s up 42% from 2019. Additionally, the average amount of time taken by professional services workers who took sick leave has increased by 15% since 2019 to an average of 15.5 hours per year. 

Furthermore, while all age groups have seen a rise in the share of professional services workers taking sick leave, workers 25-34 years old have seen the largest increase: 32% percent of workers aged 25 to 34 have taken sick leave so far in 2023, compared to 28% of workers aged 35 to 54. 

This younger generation is now the most likely to take time away from work to rest and recover from an illness – a sign of a generational shift in the attitude that employees have to taking time off to protect their health.

Workers 25-34 years are now the most likely age group to take sick leave.*

*Percent of professional service workers with an active PTO policy who used sick leave during the year.
Tom Bowen is an Economist at Gusto, researching work and business trends in the modern economy. He received his Master’s of Economics from UC Santa Cruz. Tom currently lives in San Francisco, CA.
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