A Note on Absenteeism

Publication Date01 March 1989
AuthorJohn Treble,Tim Barmby
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8543.1989.tb00213.x
Date01 March 1989
British Journal
of
Industrial Relations
27:
1
March
1989
0007-1080
$3.00
A
Note
on
Absenteeism
Tim Barmby**
and
John
Treble*
This note presents a summary of a recent study of the rate of absence
in
a
medium-size manufacturing plant.
As
far as we are aware this is the first such
study to be conducted using individual data, and
it
confirms the general
weakness of empirical results in this field. Our main conclusion is that
studies of absenteeism are likely to be afflicted with a serious problem
of
identification arising from the fact that personnel managers generally have
fairly effective anti-absence systems in place. Future studies
of
absenteeism
and its correlates should take this problem into account either by explicit
modelling of the absenteeism control methods used or by restricting
attention to plants in which absenteeism control is ineffective.
The firm we studied operates a production line in which raw materials are
subjected to a variety of processes, each in aseparate department. Production
staff are employed on three different kinds of contract. There are full-time
permanent workers, part-time permanent workers and workers on fixed-
term (temporary) contracts. The firm operates a fixed two week holiday
period during July, when production workers are not offered work. Mainten-
ance and cleaning of equipment is undertaken during this holiday period.
Data was collected for a random sample
of
250
workers for all
departments of the firm, for each of two weeks in the summer
of
1987.
The
data collection involved combining information from personnel and payroll
records. We were able to obtain detailed information on hours worked (both
overtime and standard time) and pay received. This included a full
breakdown
of
bonuses and premia. From the personnel records information
was obtained on age, date
of
commencement, sex and marital status.
Individuals were identified by their clock number, which also codes the
department in which the individual normally works. Because there is some
transference of individuals between departments depending on production
demands, this is a less than perfect indicator
of
job
characteristics at any
particular time, but it was the best indicator available
to
us.
'John Treble is a Senior Lecturer in Economics and Director
of
the Labour Economics Unit at
the University
of
Hull
**Tim Barmby is now Lecturer in Economics and a member
of
the Applied Microeconomics
Research Group at the University
of
Loughborough.

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