Purpose– The purpose of this paper is to examine the impact of wage dispersion on sickness absenteeism observed in Belgian firms. Design/methodology/approach– The authors use detailed linked employer-employee panel data for the period 1999-2006 that allow the authors to compute a conditional wage dispersion indicator following the Winter-Ebmer and Zweimüller (1999) methodology and to estimate the relationship between sickness absenteeism and wage dispersion while controlling for time-invariant workplace characteristics. Findings– The authors find a positive and hump-shaped relationship between intra-firm wage dispersion and sickness absenteeism, the turning point of this relation being extremely high. In addition, the magnitude of the influence of wage dispersion on sickness absenteeism is found to be stronger in firms employing a larger share of blue-collar workers. Practical implications– The results could therefore suggest that wage dispersion, suggestive of larger pay-for-performance mechanisms, decreases worker satisfaction and the workplace climate in general. Only a minority of workers, who are less sensitive to equity and cohesion considerations, would be less absent as pay-for-performance increases. Originality/value– While numerous approaches analyse the link between wage dispersion and firm productivity, very few studies we are aware of are devoted to the relationship between wage dispersion and sickness absenteeism. Yet, the outcomes in terms of productivity and sickness absenteeism may be different. Furthermore, the influence of wage dispersion on sickness absenteeism does not seem unambiguous from a theoretical point of view. To the authors knowledge, it is the first time that this relation is analysed with Belgian data.
International Journal of Manpower – Emerald Publishing
Published: May 3, 2016
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