Introduction: Musculoskeletal complaints can impact on work in terms of productivity, sickness absence and long term incapacity for work. While employee attitudes and knowledge can drive absenteeism and presenteeism behaviour, managers also play an important role in influencing this via the quality of their relationships with employees and their role in implementing organisational policies and procedures. The aims of this study were to investigate the beliefs and attitudes of managers and employees with musculoskeletal pain about sickness absence, presenteeism, and return to work and to identify areas of consensus and conflict. Methods: 18 employees with musculoskeletal pain and 20 managers from two large public sector organisations in South Wales, UK, took part in individual face-to-face interviews. Data were analysed thematically using NVivo. Results: Employees’ and managers’ reports indicated that there was a strong culture of presenteeism in these organisations. Establishing the legitimacy of complaints was a salient theme for both managers and employees, although their views were in conflict. Employees reported feeling that contact with employers was intrusive when sickness absence was legitimate. Managers were supportive of those who they felt were ‘genuinely’ unwell, but also cited examples of people ‘working the system’ and not reporting absences appropriately. Conclusions: These issues require careful consideration of the rights and responsibilities of both employees and employers, where strategies for improving communication, trust, and creating an environment conducive to successful return to work need to be investigated.
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This research was funded by the Welsh Assembly Government and the Wales Centre for Health. We wish to acknowledge the Well-being in Work steering group for their advice and support and we would like to thank the participating organisations and employees. We would like thank Katie Marsh for her assistance during the data collection and early analysis stages of this study.
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Wynne-Jones, G., Buck, R., Porteous, C. et al. What Happens to Work if you’re Unwell? Beliefs and Attitudes of Managers and Employees With Musculoskeletal Pain in a Public Sector Setting. J Occup Rehabil 21, 31–42 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10926-010-9251-7
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