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Soc Sci Med. 2005 May;60(10):2273-82. Epub 2004 Dec 7.

'Choosing' to work when sick: workplace presenteeism.

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  • 1Department of Public Health, Wellington School of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Otago, P.O. Box 7343, Wellington South, New Zealand.


Presenteeism is a concept used to describe the phenomenon of working through illness and injury. This paper is based on interviews and focus groups undertaken at three different work sites in New Zealand: a small private hospital, a large public hospital and a small factory. The research suggests that presenteeism is a prominent phenomenon in the lives of workers at these different sites, but the way in which it is rationalised and the factors that foster presenteeism are quite distinct. Exploring the way in which presenteeism links to economic and social constraints and workplace cultures provides insights into these rationalisations. The powerful forces promoting presenteeism tempers the research community's concern with absenteeism. A presenteeism discourse needs to be more prominently articulated to oppose both the absenteeism discourse, and to moderate the views taken by some postmodernist theorists on choice in relation to health practices in workplace settings.

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