The well-being of employees and short sickness absences are an interesting target of research, especially in labour-intensive organizations. In the health and social services sector, for example, cost management is strongly connected to the development of staff costs. However, organizations rarely focus on examining the sickness absences of substitutes. The LYHTY project has been studying the short sickness absences of substitutes and permanent employees over a period of four years. Changes in absences were particularly detected in 2020.
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Information on short sickness absences (maximum duration 10 days) in the health and social services sector were collected from the years 2017–2020. The materials indicate that the sickness absences of substitutes in the health and social services sector settled at a level of 3–5%, in proportion to person-years, in 2017–2019. Over the same period, the absences of permanent employees settled at 8–10%. Exceptionally, in 2020, the share of permanent employees’ short sickness absences in proportion to person-years changed considerably, dropping to 2.5%. The year 2020 was exceptional; in the longitudinal data covering the four years in question, substitutes’ number of sickness absences in proportion to the person-years exceeded that of permanent employees for the first time. The share of substitutes’ short sickness absences in proportion to person-years had remained at the same level as in previous years. Instead, the share of permanent employees’ short sickness absences in proportion to person-years was considerably reduced.
Is the change related to flexibility among permanent employees or something else? How will the continuation of the pandemic affect the development of the short absences of substitutes and permanent employees now and in the future? Those in charge of resourcing, recruiting, occupational well-being and HR management in the health and social services sector will have a great deal to think about.
The graphs compiled according to the data allow us to view the duration of the short sickness absences of substitutes and permanent employees in the health and social services sector and the distribution of the absences according to age and gender. The extensive longitudinal materials from the Kokkola and Jakobstad areas in 2017–2020 were collected in the LYHTY project aimed to prevent short absences, funded by the European Social Fund and the Finnish Work Environment Fund. All in all, 37,122 pieces of data on absences in the health and social services sector were available, 2,840 of which were related to substitutes’ periods of absence. The data covers the various areas of health and social service production from support services to health and medical care services.
In the health and social services sector, substitutes are a vitally important resource that remains stable and reliable even in major changes. When planning future operations, it is important to examine the overall situation of permanent employees and substitutes, taking into account sufficient operational opportunities and the promotion of individuals’ and work communities’ well-being.