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RR673: The feasibility of comparing sickness absence surveys and the Labour Force Survey

The purpose of this research was to corroborate the Labour Force Survey statistics on incidence of work-related ill health, workplace injuries and average number of days absent across a broad range of employer organisations from 2003 to 2007. While the original aim had been to combine all the data collected by the employer organisations, it became apparent that there were too many differences in study design for this to be feasible. Instead published surveys from six employer organisations were reviewed and compared as a whole. There is wide variability in the published sickness absence rates. This is likely to be due to a combination of factors, notably differences in target population, how the data are summarised, differences in the demography of the samples and random variation. Determining the contribution of each factor to the differences was not possible. In conclusion, none of the surveys considered were directly comparable with the LFS and the complexity of differences between the other surveys made it difficult to draw any comparison with the LFS. However, some conclusions on general trends in absence from the employer sources are given.

This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.

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Updated 2010-03-19