Identifying employee, workplace and population characteristics associated with COVID-19 outbreaks in the workplace: a population-based study

Christopher E. Overton, Rachel Abbey, Tarrion Baird, Rachel Christie, Owen Daniel, Julie Day, Matthew Gittins, Owen Jones, Robert Paton, Maria Tang, Tom Ward, Jack Wilkinson, Camilla Woodrow-Hill, Timothy Aldridge, Yiqun Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives To identify risk factors that contribute to outbreaks of COVID-19 in the workplace and quantify their effect on outbreak risk. Methods We identified outbreaks of COVID-19 cases in the workplace and investigated the characteristics of the individuals, the workplaces, the areas they work and the mode of commute to work, through data linkages based on Middle Layer Super Output Areas in England between 20 June 2021 and 20 February 2022. We estimated population-level associations between potential risk factors and workplace outbreaks, adjusting for plausible confounders identified using a directed acyclic graph. Results For most industries, increased physical proximity in the workplace was associated with increased risk of COVID-19 outbreaks, while increased vaccination was associated with reduced risk. Employee demographic risk factors varied across industry, but for the majority of industries, a higher proportion of black/African/Caribbean ethnicities and living in deprived areas, was associated with increased outbreak risk. A higher proportion of employees in the 60-64 age group was associated with reduced outbreak risk. There were significant associations between gender, work commute modes and staff contract type with outbreak risk, but these were highly variable across industries. Conclusions This study has used novel national data linkages to identify potential risk factors of workplace COVID-19 outbreaks, including possible protective effects of vaccination and increased physical distance at work. The same methodological approach can be applied to wider occupational and environmental health research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)92-100
Number of pages9
JournalOccupational and Environmental Medicine
Issue number2
Early online date8 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - 8 Feb 2024


  • COVID-19
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Epidemiology
  • Public health
  • Statistics


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