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Sickness Presenteeism, Sickness Absenteeism, and Health Following Restructuring in a Public Service Organization


  • Natasha Caverley
  • J. Barton Cunningham
  • James N. MacGregor


This study examined the relationship between sickness presenteeism, sickness absenteeism, organizational outcomes and employee health. In particular, we wanted to investigate to what degree employees were substituting sickness presence for sickness absence. Three hypotheses were tested to formalize this 'substitution proposition'. We surveyed a Canadian public service organization which was involved in a large scale downsizing initiative. For this study, 237 Personnel Corporation (pseudonym used) employees responded to the survey, representing a 66 per cent response rate. Survey results indicated that, while the workforce was of average health, sickness absenteeism was less than half that of the national average. The difference could be accounted for by sickness presenteeism - the average number of days employees attended work while ill or injured was greater than the number of days of sickness absence. The pattern of results supported the notion that employees were substituting presenteeism for absenteeism. The frequency and type of self-reported health problems were highly similar for presenteeism and absenteeism. Work factors (e.g. job security, supervisor support and job satisfaction) tested were significantly correlated with presenteeism. Presenteeism appears to be a stronger predictor of health than absenteeism, suggesting that efforts to improve workplace health may have a more immediate impact on presenteeism than on absenteeism. Copyright Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2007.

Suggested Citation

  • Natasha Caverley & J. Barton Cunningham & James N. MacGregor, 2007. "Sickness Presenteeism, Sickness Absenteeism, and Health Following Restructuring in a Public Service Organization," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44(2), pages 304-319, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jomstd:v:44:y:2007:i:2:p:304-319

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    Cited by:

    1. Barnes, Maria Carla & Buck, Rhiannon & Williams, Gareth & Webb, Katie & Aylward, Mansel, 2008. "Beliefs about common health problems and work: A qualitative study," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 67(4), pages 657-665, August.
    2. repec:eee:labeco:v:46:y:2017:i:c:p:150-165 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Marsden, David & Moriconi, Simone, 2009. "The value of rude health: employees' well being, absence and workplace performance," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 51587, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    4. Bubonya, Melisa & Cobb-Clark, Deborah A. & Wooden, Mark, 2017. "Mental health and productivity at work: Does what you do matter?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 150-165.
    5. Karanika-Murray, Maria & Pontes, Halley M. & Griffiths, Mark D. & Biron, Caroline, 2015. "Sickness presenteeism determines job satisfaction via affective-motivational states," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 139(C), pages 100-106.
    6. Hansen, Claus D. & Andersen, Johan H., 2008. "Going ill to work - What personal circumstances, attitudes and work-related factors are associated with sickness presenteeism?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 67(6), pages 956-964, September.
    7. Daniel Arnold, 2016. "Determinants of the Annual Duration of Sickness Presenteeism: Empirical Evidence from European Data," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 30(2), pages 198-212, June.
    8. Dean A. Shepherd & Melissa S. Cardon, 2009. "Negative Emotional Reactions to Project Failure and the Self-Compassion to Learn from the Experience," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 46(6), pages 923-949, September.

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