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Do workplace health-promotion interventions targeting employees with poor health reduce sick-leave probability and disability rates?

Roy A. Nielsen & Tove Midtsundstad

Scandinavian Journal of Public Health 2020

Open access

Forskere på Fafo: Roy A. Nielsen, Tove Midtsundstad

This study aimed to investigate whether introducing workplace health-promotion interventions targeting employees with health problems or reduced work ability affected overall sick leave and disability risk.

The study population comprised data from an establishment survey from 2010 identifying who had introduced workplace health promotion (the intervention) linked to register data on all employees and their sickness absence and disability pension uptake from 2000 through 2010.

Interventions had moderate effects due to varying efficacy in different parts of the labour market. Intervention success was more likely among white-collar workers (e.g. in public administration) compared to blue-collar workers (e.g. in manufacturing), probably due to variations in both organisational and technological constraints. Effects were small among men and moderate among older workers, particularly among women. Overall, disability risk reduction was accompanied by an increase in sickness absence. Sometimes, sickness absence increased in groups with no change in disability risk, suggesting that presenteeism in one group may increase absenteeism in other groups.

Introducing workplace health-promotion interventions may prolong work careers in some labour-market segments. Financial incentives for Norwegian establishments to continue offering workplace health-promotion interventions may be improved, given the current financial model for disability pension and sickness benefits.

Do workplace health-promotion interventions targeting employees with poor health reduce sick-leave probability and disability rates?