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Sickness Presence Among Self-Employed In Western Europe – The Importance Of Psychosocial Working Conditions
Mälardalen University, School of Health, Care and Social Welfare. Stockholm University, Dept of Publ Health Sciences, Stockholm, Sweden. (HAL)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3965-1666
2018 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Self-employed is an interesting category when it comes to the phenomenon of sickness presence. To our knowledge, there are few studies of sickness presence among self-employed. In addition, earlier studies have indicated that self-employed have a high working pace and work many and irregular ours (Gunnarsson, Vingård, & Josephson, 2007; Nordenmark, Vinberg & Strandh, 2012; Parasuraman & Simmers, 2001), indicating that it can be problematic and frustrating to stay at home because of illness. Also, self-employed can be seen as a group with low replace ability, which can contribute to high sickness presence (Aronsson & Gustafsson, 2005).  Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to study the occurrence of sickness presence among self-employed in relation to employees, and to analyse if possible differences between the groups can be explained by different psychosocial working conditions related to work demands and time pressure.

European policymakers encourage individuals to become self-employed because it is a way to promote innovation and job-creation (Eurofound, 2017). The proportion of self-employed individuals in the employed labour force in Europe is around 15 percent. Most of the self-employed choose to become self-employed and have good working conditions and job quality. However, around one of five of the self-employed report that they have no alternative for work and they have lower levels of job quality and worse well-being compared to the former group of self-employed (ibid.). Several studies show that the self-employed have very high decision authority and control how work is organised (Hundley, 2001; Stephan & Roesler, 2010). Conversely, most research on the characteristics of the self-employed finds that they report higher job demands and a higher workload than employees do (Nordenmark et al., 2012; Stephan & Roesler, 2010). In general, research show that self-employment is associated with a higher degree of job satisfaction than regular employment (Benz & Frey, 2004; Blanchflower, 2004: Lange, 2012). Research show that high adjustment latitude can contribute to fewer days of health complaints associated with lower rates of sick leave and sickness presence (Gerich, 2014). However, according to a recent review research concerning other health outcomes among self-employed show contradictory results (Stephan, 2017). Although, research about sickness presence has increased during the last decade relatively few organizational scholars are familiar with the concept (Aronsson & Gustafsson, 2005; Johns, 2010). Sickness presence can cause productivity loss and higher organizational costs than sickness absence (Cooper & Dewe, 2008) and increase the risk for illness among individuals (Bergström et al., 2009). It can be assumed that sickness presence and health among self-employed are particularly crucial in this enterprise group due to that the smallness make them vulnerable.

This present study is based on the fifth European survey on working conditions (EWCS) 2015, which has become an established source of information on working conditions and employment in EU Member States. The independent variable – employment type consists of the categories self-employed (with and without employees) and employees. The main independent variable is sickness presence and is measured by the following question: Over the past 12 months did you work when you were sick (1=Yes, 0=No). Several indicators of work demands, time pressure and background variables are used in the analysis.

 

Preliminary study results show that self-employed report a higher level of sickness presence than employed; 52.4 verses 43.6 percent. The mean number of working hours is 43.5 among self-employed and 35.4 among employed. Self-employed have worked in the evenings on average nearly 7 days a month, which is more than twice as many times as for employees. It is also twice as usual that self-employed have worked on a Sunday compared to employees.  Self-employed have on average worked in the free time once or twice a month and employees have on average worked on their free time less often. All the differences between self-employed and employed are clearly significant and indicate a higher level of sickness presence and time pressure among self-employed. In a bivariate analysis, self-employed have a significant higher risk for reporting sickness presence. When controlling for the indicators of time pressure this relationship becomes insignificant. This means when holding the indicators of time pressure on a constant level there is no significant difference between self-employed and employed regarding the risk for reporting sickness presence. The indicator that explains the most of the difference in sickness presence between self-employed and employed is work in free time. All indicators of time pressure are significant related to the risk for sickness presence; the more hours worked and the more often worked in evenings, on Sundays and in the free time, the higher the risk for reporting sickness presence. All these variables are also significant associated to the risk for sickness presence when controlling for background characteristics. Age is significantly associated to sickness presence in the way that a higher age reduces the risk for reporting sickness presence. Women more often report sickness presence than men do. Civil status is not significantly associated to sickness presence. Having children increases the risk for sickness presence and having household economic difficulties increases the risk for reporting sickness presence. The indicators of time pressure contribute most to the level of explained variance in all performed regression models.

The results show that self-employed have a significant higher risk for reporting sickness presence than employed have. This difference is explained by the variables measuring time pressure, which indicates that the self-employed have a higher risk of reporting sickness presence because they experience more time pressure. In the extended paper, we will include other psychosocial working conditions as e.g. job control and consider different clusters of self-employed. The contribution to the small group meeting will be knowledge about sickness presence among different groups of self-employed and implications for researchers and practitioners.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018.
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-46090OAI: oai:DiVA.org:mdh-46090DiVA, id: diva2:1370623
Conference
EAWOP Small Group Meeting,"To work, or not to work (when sick), that is the question", Klagenfurt, Austria, July 27-28, 2018
Available from: 2019-11-15 Created: 2019-11-15 Last updated: 2019-11-15

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