The perceived legitimacy of minor illness as a reason for absence
This thesis investigates the role played by minor illness in how individuals legitimise absence from work. In particular, it considers the role played by different types of minor illness and motivational and environmental factors associated with perceived legitimacy. The investigation is based on two large data sets, collected from staff of the Northern region of the Employment Service. a department of the Civil Service. The first survey of 1307 respondents studied relationships among the perceived legitimacy of 18 illnesses, work and absence attitudes and stress. The second data set combined interview and survey data from 230 respondents on perceived health; susceptibility to illness; organizational trust; job satisfaction: perceived frequency of illness; likelihood of absence. Actual absence data were also obtained for 115 of the respondents. The results showed that perceived legitimacy of illness was related to actual absence and that men legitimise illnesses as reasons for absence significantly more than women. Sex differences were almost pervasive in the findings, supporting the proposition that the sexes be considered as separate populations in terms of absence behaviour; there were also very pronounced grade and age differences. Factor analyses of the perceived legitimacy scale suggest illness clusters, which relate to absence behaviour. Perceived legitimacy and absence are both linked to many of the dependent variables including stress, lack of recognition, job satisfaction and trust in management. However, climate, perceived health status and susceptibility to illness were related to actual absence but not to perceived legitimacy. Findings indicate the importance of attitudes to absence and malingering, including the use of penalties and incentives to control absence, and the existence of an 'Absence Ethic' is proposed. The findings suggest that there are direct and indirect effects for some variables and there is evidence of reverse causality and a cyclical pattern of attitudes-absence-attitudes. The general implications are considered for research, the management of absence and absence control in the target organization.