Employees who feel they are treated unfairly at work are more likely to take long-term sick leaves, a study has found.
Sickness absence is a major health concern for organisations and important contributing factors are found in the work environment.
For example, low job control and decision-making opportunities have previously been shown to increase the likelihood of sick leave.
A relatively new determinant of employee health is their perception of fairness in the work place, known as organisational justice, according to researchers from the University of East Anglia in the UK and the Stockholm University in Sweden.
The study, published in BMC Public Health, focused on one element of this, called interactional justice, which relates to the treatment of employees by managers.
Interactional justice itself can encompass informational justice - defined as receiving truthful and candid information with adequate justifications - and interpersonal justice, concerning respectful and dignified treatment by the manager.
Using data from more than 19,000 employees, the researchers investigated the relationship between interpersonal and informational justice and long and frequent sickness absence.
They also explored whether times of high uncertainty at work, for example perceived job insecurity, had an effect on sick leave.
The team found that lower levels of justice at work relate both to an increase in shorter, but more frequent sickness absence periods, and to an increased risk of longer sickness absence episodes.
Also, higher levels of job insecurity turned out to be an important predictor of long and frequent sickness absence.
"While shorter, but more frequent periods of sickness absence might be a chance for the individual to get relief from high levels of strain or stress, long-term sickness absence might be a sign of more serious health problems," said Constanze Eib, from the University of East Anglia.
"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," Eib said.
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