Workers in boring jobs 'take more sick leave'

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

PEOPLE with boring jobs take more time off sick than those in highly-skilled and powerful positions, according to a study, writes Liz Hunt.

Men in low-grade jobs have a higher rate of sickness than women in similar positions, although the women were more likely to be married with dependent children. They might be expected to take more days off to meet family demands.

Smoking, regular drinking, money worries and lack of support at home and work were all contributory factors to sick leave. However, these factors only accounted for a third of sickness absences, according to the study in the British Medical Journal. Other factors yet to be identified are likely to be important.

More than 10,000 civil servants aged 35 to 55 and working in London took part in the study. Overall rates of sickness absence in the civil service are similar to or lower than those in other organisations.

Researchers from University College and Middlesex School of Medicine, London, found that men in the lowest grades had rates of short absence (less than seven days) and long absence (more than seven days) more than six times higher than those in the higher grades. For women the corresponding rates were 3 and 4.2 times higher respectively.

The rates were higher again for men who said their jobs lacked control, variety and use of skills. The impact of sickness on British industry is substantial; more than 370 million workdays are lost each year at a cost of at least pounds 5bn.