Unionization and sickness

A new Working Paper by ISER PhD student Michail Veliziotis examining the link between unionization and sickness from work has concluded that union members have a substantially higher weekly expected absence, a higher probability of being away from work for at least one hour in a given week and a higher probability of taking a full week off due to sickness than comparable non-union employees.

The paper, Unionization and sickness absence from work in the UK, uses Labour Force Survey data for the years 2006-2008 to explore whether union membership increases sickness absence from work and, if so, by how much. It also asks which specific channels this effect operates through.

The research paper showed that, among union-covered employees, members appeared to take significantly more absence than non-members, while further analysis of the results indicates that this can be attributed to a large extent to the protection that unions offer to employees.

The paper also tried to explore whether the findings indicated an increase in absenteeism or ‘shirking’ or decreased “presenteeism” (people going to work when sick). Veliziotiz concludes that while the former cannot be ruled out , there is also additional evidence of the latter and believes the research has significant policy implications. He also says the research findings call into question calculations of absence costs made by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI, 2008).


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