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The impact of temporary employment and job tenure on work-related sickness absence
  1. E Tompa1,2,3,
  2. H Scott-Marshall1,3,
  3. M Fang1
  1. 1
    Institute for Work & Health, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2
    Department of Economics, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  3. 3
    Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  1. Dr Emile Tompa, Institute for Work & Health, 481 University Avenue, Suite 800, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5G 2E9; etompa{at}


Objectives: To investigate the impact of temporary employment and job tenure on work-related sickness absence of 1 week or more.

Methods: A longitudinal analysis was undertaken of the time to work-related sickness absence from the start of a job using the Canadian Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics. The sample consisted of 4777 individuals who experienced 7953 distinct job episodes and 167 absences. There were 114 488 person-job-month observational units. The major variables of interest in this study were a variable identifying whether the job was temporary or permanent, and tenure on the job.

Results: Individuals in temporary jobs were as likely to have a work-related sickness absence as individuals in permanent jobs. Individuals with job tenure of 4–6 months were 64% less likely to have an absence than individuals with longer tenures. Individuals in a union were more likely to have an absence. Firm size was not associated with absence.

Conclusions: Previous studies have suggested that temporary employment and job tenure are associated with work-related health risk exposures and the ability to take a sickness absence, but these studies have not considered the nature of the employment contract in a longitudinal framework. This analysis did not find temporary employment to be associated with differential absence rate after controlling for tenure, prior health status, and several other individual and job characteristics. Short tenure is negatively related to the probability of work-related sickness absence, union membership is positively related, and firm size is not related to this variable.

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  • Funding: Funding for this research was provided by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (grant no. FRN 5773). Additional top-off funding was provided by the Ontario Workplace Safety & Insurance Board’s Research Advisory Council (grant no. 02 006).

  • Competing interests: None.

  • Ethics approval: Use of the Canadian Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics for this study was approved by the Research Ethics Board at the University of Toronto.