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Online ISSN: 1099-176X    Print ISSN: 1091-4358
The Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics
Volume 15, Issue 4, 2012. Pages: 157-170
Published Online: 1 December 2012

Copyright © 2012 ICMPE.


 

The Effect of Part-time Sick Leave for Employees with Mental Disorders

Jan Høgelund,1* Anders Holm,2 and Lene Falgaard Eplov3

1Msc, PhD, Senior Researcher, The Danish National Centre for Social Research, Copenhagen K, Denmark
2Msc, PhD, Professor, The School of Education, Aarhus University, Copenhagen NV, and Centre for Applied Microeconomics, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
3MD, PhD, Senior Consultant, Mental Health Centre Copenhagen, Copenhagen NV, Denmark

* Correspondence to: Jan Høgelund, MSc, PhD, Senior Researcher, The Danish National Centre for Social Research, Herluf Trolles Gade 11, DK-1052 Copenhagen
Tel.: +45-3348 0876
Fax: +45-3348 0833
E-mail: jh@sfi.dk

Source of Funding: This study was funded by The Danish National Centre for Social Research and the School of Education, Aarhus University.

Abstract

This study examines the effect of part-time sick leave on the duration until employees end their sick leave by reporting ready for returning to regular working hours. We use combined survey and register data about 226 Danish long-term sick-listed employees with mental disorders and 638 employees with non-mental disorders. We use mixed-proportional hazard rate models, controlling for unobserved differences between part-time and full-time sick-listed. Our analyses show that part-time sick-listing has no effect on sick leave durations for employees with mental disorders. In contrast, we find that part-time sick-listing significantly reduces the duration for employees with non-mental disorders. The analyses illustrate the importance of controlling for unobserved differences between part-time and full-time sick-listed. Without this control, part-time sick-listing significantly reduces sick leave durations. When we control for unobserved characteristics, this effect decreases, and for sick-listed employees with mental disorders the effect vanishes entirely.

 

Background: Part-time sick leave (PTSL) allows employees on full-time sick leave (FTSL) to resume work at reduced hours. When the partly absent employee's health improves, working hours are increased until the employee is able to work regular hours. Studies have found that PTSL is an effective instrument for reducing sick leave durations for employees with musculoskeletal disorders and for employees on sick leave in general. This is the first published article to document how PTSL affects sick leave durations for employees with mental disorders.

Aim: The aim is to estimate the effect of PTSL on the duration until returning to regular working hours for employees with mental disorders. We compare this effect to that of PTSL for employees with non-mental disorders (‘other disorders’).

Methods: We use combined survey and register data about 226 employees on long-term sick leave with mental disorders and 638 employees with other disorders. These data contain information about type of disorder, PTSL and FTSL (full-time sick leave) durations, and various background characteristics. We use a mixed proportional hazard regression model that allows us to control for unobserved differences between employees on PTSL and those on FTSL.

Results: Our analyses show that PTSL has no effect on the duration until returning to regular working hours for employees with mental disorders. Furthermore, looking at specific disorders such as depression and stress-related conditions, we find no significant effects of PTSL. In contrast, in line with previous research, we find that PTSL significantly reduces the duration until returning to regular working hours for employees with other disorders. The analyses also illustrate the importance of controlling for unobserved differences between employees on PTSL and those on FTSL. Without this control, PTSL significantly reduces the duration until returning to regular working hours. When we control for unobserved characteristics, this effect decreases, and for employees with mental disorders the effect vanishes entirely.

Discussion and Limitations: The lack of an effect of PTSL for employees with mental disorders needs replication in other studies. If subsequent studies confirm our findings, one should not necessarily conclude that PTSL is an ineffective intervention: PTSL may play a role in combination with other workplace interventions and in combination with person-centred interventions. The study is limited by self-reported data about disorders and a relatively small number of employees with mental disorders.

Conclusion and Implications: Our findings suggest that while PTSL reduces sick leave durations for employees with other disorders, it does not affect sick leave durations for employees with mental disorders. These results may indicate that PTSL by itself is insufficient for promoting the return to work of employees with mental disorders.

Future Research: Future studies could benefit from larger data sets with disorder information based on medical assessments. In addition to quantitative effect studies, future studies could focus on qualitative workplace mechanisms that may counteract the potential positive effects of PTSL for employees on sick leave with mental disorders.


Received 4 April 2011; accepted 27 October 2012

Copyright 2012 ICMPE