Background: School closure is a key component of many countries' plans to mitigate the effect of an influenza pandemic. Although a number of studies have suggested that such a policy might reduce the incidence, there are no published studies of the cost of such policies. This study attempts to fill this knowledge gap
Methods: School closure is expected to lead to significant work absenteeism of working parents who are likely to be the main care givers to their dependent children at home. The cost of absenteeism due to school closure is calculated as the paid productivity loss of parental absenteeism during the period of school closure. The cost is estimated from societal perspective using a nationally representative survey.
Results: The results show that overall about 16% of the workforce is likely to be the main caregiver for dependent children and therefore likely to take absenteeism. This rises to 30% in the health and social care sector, as a large proportion of the workforce are women. The estimated costs of school closure are significant, at 0.2 pounds bn - 1.2 pounds bn per week. School closure is likely to significantly exacerbate the pressures on the health system through staff absenteeism.
Conclusion: The estimates of school closure associated absenteeism and the projected cost would be useful for pandemic planning for business continuity, and for cost effectiveness evaluation of different pandemic influenza mitigation strategies.