Objective: In Spain, sick pay benefits for work-related sick leave episodes are higher than for non work-related episodes. Our aim is to assess whether time to return to work is longer for higher paid sick leave episodes than for lower paid episodes.
Methods: We used data from 62,376 work-related and 76,932 non work-related sick leave episodes occurring among 338,226 workers from 56,099 companies in Spain in 2002. All episodes were followed for up to 18 months. Episodes were classified by a physician as being work or non work-related according to medicolegal judgments. The median episode duration and the 25th and 75th percentiles were calculated. The probability of remaining absent from work was estimated by a non-parametric estimator of the marginal survival function. The time ratio between both types of sick leave was estimated by a log-logistic regression model, using non-work related episodes as the reference.
Results: Median episode duration (25th-75th percentiles) was 11 (6-21) days for work-related episodes and 9 (4-29) days for non work-related episodes. Time to return to work was longer for work-related episodes than non work-related episodes of less than 16 days (time ratio=1.19 in men and 1.08 in women), while the opposite was observed for episodes of more than 15 days (0.58 in men and 0.40 in women).
Conclusions: Sick pay benefits have a limited effect on time to return to work after a short-term sick leave episode. However for longer term episodes, those receiving lower sick pay benefits took much longer to return to work.
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