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Examining paid sickness absence by shift workers

21 May 2014

Background

Shift workers are at greater risk than day workers with respect to psychological and physical health, yet little research has linked shift work to increased sickness absence.

Aims

To investigate the relationship between shift work and sickness absence while controlling for organ- izational and individual characteristics and shift work attributes that have confounded previous research.

Methods

The study used archive data collected from three national surveys in Canada, each involving over 20000 employees and 6000 private-sector firms in 14 different occupational groups. The employees reported the number of paid sickness absence days in the past 12 months. Data were analysed using both chi-squared statistics and hierarchical regressions.

Results

Contrary to previous research, shift workers took less paid sickness absence than day workers. There were no differences in the length of the sickness absence between both groups or in sickness absence taken by female and male workers whether working days or shifts. Only job tenure, the presence of a union in the workplace and working rotating shifts predicted sickness absence in shift workers. The results were consistent across all three samples.

Conclusions

In general, shift work does not seem to be linked to increased sickness absence. However, such associations may be true for specific industries. Male and female workers did not differ in the amount of sickness absence taken. Rotating shifts, regardless of industry, predicted sickness absence among shift workers. Consideration should be given to implementing scheduled time off between shift changes.

Date: 
21 May 2014

Click here to view the full article which appeared in Occupational Medicine