Worker and Employer Experiences with COVID-19 and the California Workers' Compensation System

A Review of the Literature

Published in: American Journal of Industrial Medicine (2022). doi: 10.1002/ajim.23326

by Denise D. Quigley, Nabeel Qureshi, Grace Gahlon, Courtney A. Gidengil

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Background

Given workplace risks from COVID-19, California policymakers passed Senate Bill (SB) 1159 to facilitate access to workers' compensation (WC) benefits for frontline workers. However there has been no review of the available evidence needed to inform policy decisions about COVID-19 and WC.

Methods

We conducted a literature review on worker and employer experiences surrounding COVID-19 and WC, adhering to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines.

Results

Forty articles were included (16 about worker experiences and 24 about employer practices). Most were not about experiences and practices related to COVID-19 and WC. Worker studies indicated that paid sick leave reduced new COVID-19 cases and COVID-19 activity. Studies also found that rural agricultural and food processing workers lacked sick leave protection and faced severe housing and food insecurity. Studies on workplace health and safety indicated that healthcare workers with access to personal protective equipment had lower stress levels. Studies about employer practices found that unrestricted work in high-contact industries was associated with increased risks to at-risk workers, and with health disparities. No studies examined worker COVID-19 experiences and WC claims or benefits, job loss, retaliation, workers' medical care experiences, and return-to-work or leave practices.

Conclusions

Our review identified experiences and practice related to COVID-19 and the WC system, but not specifically about WC and COVID-19 WC claims or benefits. Further research is needed to document and understand evidence underpinning the need for WC coverage for COVID-19 and to evaluate the impact of the current SB 1159 bill on WC in California.

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