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Feelings of unfairness at work tied to more sickness absences

Staff who feel unfairly treated at work are likely to be off sick more frequently and for longer, underlining the need for fair treatment of employees, researchers say.

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Staff who feel unfairly treated at work are likely to be off sick more frequently and for longer than their peers, researchers say.

Teams from the University of East Anglia and Stockholm University looked at the perceived treatment of employees by managers and the effect on sick leave.

Researchers used data from 2010, 2012 and 2014 from the Swedish Longitudinal Occupational Survey of Health, which focused on work organisation, work environment and health.

The study covered 58,479 observations from 19,493 employees.

Minimising lost days

It examined whether long and frequent sickness absence was affected by 'interpersonal justice', defined as respectful and dignified treatment by the manager, and 'informational justice', meaning receiving truthful and candid information with adequate justifications.

Researchers found less fairness at work was related to an increase in shorter but more frequent sickness absences as well as to an increased likelihood of longer sickness absence.

They also found perceived job insecurity was an important predictor of long and frequent sickness absences.

Co-author Constanze Eib said: ‘Our results underline the need for fair and just treatment of employees, irrespective of perceived job insecurity, in order to keep the workforce healthy and to minimise lost work days due to sickness absence.’

Leineweber C et al (2017) Interactional justice at work is related to sickness absence: a study using repeated measures in the Swedish working population. BMC Public Health. doi: 10.1186/s12889-017-4899-y

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