Interactional justice at work is related to sickness absence: a study using repeated measures in the Swedish working population

Constanze Leineweber, Claudia Bernhard-Oettel, Peristera Paraskevi, Constanze Eib, Anna Nyberg, Hugo Westerlund

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Background: Research has shown that perceived unfairness contributes to higher rates of sickness absence. While shorter, but more frequent periods of sickness absence might be a possibility for the individual to get relief from high strain, long-term sickness absence might be a sign of more serious health problems. The Uncertainty Management Model suggests that justice is particularly important in times of uncertainty, e.g. perceived job insecurity. The present study investigated the association between interpersonal and informational justice at work with long and frequent sickness absence respectively, under conditions of job insecurity.

Methods: Data were derived from the 2010, 2012, and 2014 biennial waves of the Swedish Longitudinal Occupational Survey of Health (SLOSH). The final analytic sample consisted of 19,493 individuals. We applied repeated measures regression analyses through generalized estimating equations (GEE), a method for longitudinal data that simultaneously analyses variables at different time points. We calculated risk of long and frequent sickness absence, respectively in relation to interpersonal and informational justice taking perceptions of job insecurity into account.

Results: We found informational and interpersonal justice to be associated with risk of long and frequent sickness absence independently of job insecurity and demographic variables. Results from autoregressive GEE provided some support for a causal relationship between justice perceptions and sickness absence. Contrary to expectations, we found no interaction between justice and job insecurity.

Conclusions: 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 minimize lost work days due to sickness absence.
Original languageEnglish
Article number912
JournalBMC Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 8 Dec 2017

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