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'Choosing' to work when sick: workplace presenteeism


  • Dew, Kevin
  • Keefe, Vera
  • Small, Keitha


Presenteeism is a concept used to describe the phenomenon of working through illness and injury. This paper is based on interviews and focus groups undertaken at three different work sites in New Zealand: a small private hospital, a large public hospital and a small factory. The research suggests that presenteeism is a prominent phenomenon in the lives of workers at these different sites, but the way in which it is rationalised and the factors that foster presenteeism are quite distinct. Exploring the way in which presenteeism links to economic and social constraints and workplace cultures provides insights into these rationalisations. The powerful forces promoting presenteeism tempers the research community's concern with absenteeism. A presenteeism discourse needs to be more prominently articulated to oppose both the absenteeism discourse, and to moderate the views taken by some postmodernist theorists on choice in relation to health practices in workplace settings.

Suggested Citation

  • Dew, Kevin & Keefe, Vera & Small, Keitha, 2005. "'Choosing' to work when sick: workplace presenteeism," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 60(10), pages 2273-2282, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:60:y:2005:i:10:p:2273-2282

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Dorman,Peter, 2009. "Markets and Mortality," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521123044, March.
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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. Ahn, Thomas & Yelowitz, Aaron, 2016. "Paid Sick Leave and Absenteeism: The First Evidence from the U.S," MPRA Paper 69794, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Richard, Sébastien & Skagen, Kristian & Pedersen, Kjeld Møller & Huver, Benjamin, 2017. "Assessing the Propensity for Presenteeism with Sickness Absence Data," COHERE Working Paper 2017:1, University of Southern Denmark, COHERE - Centre of Health Economics Research.
    4. Konstantinos, Pouliakas & Ioannis, Theodossiou, 2010. "An Inquiry Into the Theory, Causes and Consequences of Monitoring Indicators of Health and Safety At Work," MPRA Paper 20336, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Hansson, Margareta & Boström, Carina & Harms-Ringdahl, Karin, 2006. "Sickness absence and sickness attendance--What people with neck or back pain think," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 62(9), pages 2183-2195, May.
    6. Pichler, Stefan & Ziebarth, Nicolas R., 2016. "Labor Market Effects of US Sick Pay Mandates," IZA Discussion Papers 9867, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).


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