Academic journal article Journal of Health and Human Services Administration

Nurse Absenteeism and Benefit Generosity: Evidence from Canada

Academic journal article Journal of Health and Human Services Administration

Nurse Absenteeism and Benefit Generosity: Evidence from Canada

Article excerpt


This paper uses a benefit index based on collective agreements in each Canadian province to understand the effects employee contracts have on absenteeism of full-time nurses. In particular, I estimate the impact of this benefit index on the number of hours nurses take off in a reference week. Month and year dummy variables, as well as nurses' individual and work-related characteristics, are included in both ordinary least squares and two-part model regressions. My main finding implies full-time nurses in the most generous collective agreement show a nineteen percent increase in the number of hours taken off work in comparison to the least generous collective agreement. This study illustrates how the generosity of benefits in collective agreements varies the rate of absenteeism and highlights that employees and employers still have gains to be made from readjusting employee contracts

Keywords: absenteeism, benefits, collective agreements, nurses JEL: J22


It has long been postulated that a firm's personnel policies can incentivize employees' decisions to miss work (Frankel, 1921). Buzzard and Shaw (1952) were the first to theorize that the existence of sickness benefits that replace a worker's remuneration when absent from work would influence them to stay home. Many more recent studies test this prediction and find that the more generous the sick pay regulation the greater the level of absenteeism (e.g. Markussen et al., 2011; Frick and Malo, 2008). Moreover, studies illustrate that the effect of absenteeism from employee contracts of differing generosity is due to a behavioural, rather than a compositional, effect (e.g. Olsson, 2009; Ichino and Riphahn, 2005). Markussen et al. (2011) clearly identify a behavioural effect when employees, almost instantaneous, display recovery rates prior to the exhaustion of their sickness benefits. Absenteeism in the workplace is occurring at an increasing frequency and creating a large financial burden to the firm (Dabboussy and Uppal, 2012). Pauly et al. (2002) present a model that demonstrates that the cost of absenteeism can be substantially higher than the wage rate when perfect substitutes are not readily available and there is team production in the workplace. Firms have a key role to play in reducing absenteeism. Dionne and Dostie (2007) show that workplaces are able to minimize absenteeism through altering work arrangements rather than through other mechanisms, such as adjustments in wage.

Interestingly, a U-shaped relationship between sickness absence and the gender-balance in an occupation is found in empirical work (Alexanderson et al., 1994; Hensing et al., 1995). Male-dominated occupations (such as construction) and female-dominated occupations (such as nursing) have relatively high sickness and disability absence. One can postulate that these jobs are associated with relatively higher risk of illness and disability. Hensing et al. (1995) note that male-dominated occupations are mostly industrial and involve physically strenuous work. For example, the illness or disability absence rate for laborers in the processing, manufacturing and utilities industry was 8 percent compared to the Canadian average of 5.9 percent for all occupations in 2011. To compare to a female-dominated occupation, such as nursing, the illness or disability absence rate was 8.8 percent in Canada in 2011 (Dabboussy and Uppal, 2012). Nurses are constantly surrounded by sick people and are most susceptible to contracting illness. However, Konrad et al. (1992) suggest that "in female-dominated work groups, the female sex-role spills over to identify the nature and functioning of the group". These authors are suggesting that working in a female-dominated job encourages a work culture that is more tolerant of time off. Johns and Patton (2007) study workplace cultures and find that it is more acceptable for women to be absent than men. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.