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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 February 2006, 01:07 GMT
Temp work 'harms women's health'
Hospital cleaner
Researchers looked at employees in hospitals and councils
Women in temp jobs are more likely than men in similar posts to have their employment terminated if they are often off sick, a study has found.

The Finnish researchers believe more should be done to safeguard the health of temporary employees.

The findings are in the Occupational and Environmental Medicine Journal.

A UK expert said more work was needed to know why temps took sick leave - but said the study gave support to calls for more protection for temps.

Job loss risk

Researchers from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health looked at data from a public health study in the country which compared the work records of hospital and council workers.

The study had compiled employment data for 60,600 people aged 16 to 54 during 1996, a third of whom worked as temps.

The findings that women in this study were particularly vulnerable is a concern
Mike Clinton
Occupational psychologist

In Finland, sick leave benefits are the same for temporary and permanent workers.

Temp workers were less likely to have more than 15 days sick leave in the year.

The researchers then looked at what led to employment being terminated, and the long- term work prospects of people who were sacked.

In addition to the immediate increased risk of unemployment for women temp workers, temp workers who had the highest sick leave rates were at the highest risk of unemployment three years later.

Writing in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the researchers, led by Dr Marianna Virtanen, said: "Temporary employment involves a significantly increased risk of unemployment.

"High absence among young temporary women puts them at an even greater risk of job loss and consequent unemployment."

They cite other research which has suggested that people who end up in poorer paid or temporary jobs are more likely to have other health or social disadvantages.

This puts them into a 'catch 22' situation as poor health affects their job prospects, which in turn affects their health.

Sickies?

Mike Clinton, an occupational psychologist at King's College London, who has studied the well-being of temp workers, said: "Temporary work is inherently more insecure, particularly when contracts are short or coming to an end and the risks for employee health seem to increase when workers do not choose to be temps.

"The findings that women in this study were particularly vulnerable is a concern."

However, he said it would be interesting to know whether the workers' absences reflected taking 'sickies' in order to look for new jobs, or giving themselves breaks after the end of their contract .

This could only be found out by talking to workers individually.

Mr Clinton added: "This research provides support for greater protection of temporary workers and indeed from the growing body of research in the area there seems a justification to try to protect those most vulnerable.

"However these particular findings must be balanced by other recent research carried out in six countries across Europe finding that temporary workers compare similarly to permanent workers in terms of health and well-being."




SEE ALSO:
Temps face 'dark age' conditions
13 Oct 05 |  Business
Temporary workers 'feel trapped'
13 Jul 05 |  Scotland


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