Temp workers have similar work-related sick days as permanent workers

In brief

  • Temporary work does not appear to increase the rate of work-related injury or illness absences lasting a week or longer.
  • People who have greater security in their jobs, such as those in unions or who have worked for longer, may be in a better position to take adequate time off to recover when a work-related injury or illness does occur.

Published: January 2008

Why was this study done?

Do temporary workers have a higher risk of work-related injury or illness than permanent workers? Several factors point to this possibility. For instance, because they change jobs regularly, temporary workers may lack knowledge of safety procedures and resources in new jobs. They may also be given more dangerous tasks than permanent employees. This study explored the impact of temporary work on absences lasting more than a week due to work-related injury or illness. It also considered the effect of job tenure, union status and firm size on absences.

How was the study done?

Using Statistics Canada’s Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID), the researchers looked at work situations and absences of 4,777 workers over the time period from 2000 to 2003. The SLID asks questions on up to six jobs per year, as well as on income sources and amounts, health information and sickness absences lasting a week or more (also known as an absence spell).

What did the researchers find?

Temporary workers were just as likely as permanent employees to have an absence spell due to work-related sickness. Those with multiple temporary jobs had fewer absence spells. The researchers accounted for the effects of workers’ length of employment, job characteristics, health and other factors. They also found that workers who had been in a job between four and six months were 64 per cent less likely to have a spell of absence than those who had worked longer. Workers belonging to a union were more likely to be away for a week or longer due to sickness. A worker’s poor past health substantially increased the chances of an absence spell.

What are some strengths and weaknesses of the study?

One strength is that the study followed workers over time and captured detailed information. A limitation is that it only focused on absences of one week or longer, which does not occur often. There were 167 such absences among almost 4,800 workers over the study time period.