Recessionary actions and absence: A workplace-level study

Stephen Wood, George Michaelides, Chidiebere Ogbonnaya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


Actions such as work restructuring and wage and employment freezes taken by organizations in response to recessions are widely assumed to decrease employees' job security and detrimentally affect perceptions of management's trustworthiness. We assess whether these effects occur and if, in turn, they affect workplace absenteeism. Using data from Britain's Workplace Employee Relations Survey 2011, we show that the effects on stress-based absence are limited and not as predicted, but the effects on withdrawal-based absence are strong and as predicted. Reductions in well-being or job security's effect on well-being did not affect absence, and while the reduction of trust perceptions' effect was to increase anxiety, anxiety did not increase but reduced absenteeism. The effects on withdrawal absence differ: those of recessionary action through job security reduce absenteeism, while those through trust perceptions increase it, both as predicted. The two effects involving trust perceptions are less pronounced when recessionary actions are accompanied by voluntary layoffs, but not by compulsory layoffs. The implications for management are that they should be more conscious of the effects on absence when planning recessionary actions, and more generally their effects on presenteeism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)501-520
Number of pages20
JournalHuman Resource Management
Issue number6
Early online date12 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


  • absenteeism
  • downsizing
  • job security
  • layoffs
  • restructuring
  • stress
  • trust

Cite this