Precautionary actions within SMEs

18 januari 2002

An empirical study into determinants of precautionary actions within SMEs

Absenteeism results in considerable costs, both for individuals, firms and governments. Absence spells are due to sickness, accidents, or other reasons, and the attendance of employees depends on both their ability to attend and their motivation to attend.

The occurrence of absence due to sickness and accidents can be reduced if firms take precautionary actions to improve working conditions. Physical working conditions are known to impact absence levels. For mental working conditions, the relationship with absenteeism is however less clear. This study examines the decision of enterprises whether or not to take precautionary actions. Since more than half of all occupational accidents take place within establishments with less than 50 employees, the study focuses on small and medium-sized enterprises.

Firms will implement precautionary actions if the benefits of these actions are believed to outweigh the costs. The expected benefits of precautionary actions are related to the effect of those actions on actual absence levels. It is likely that the expected benefits are related to the opinion of the employer regarding the relation between working conditions and absence levels within the firm. The main hypothesis that is tested in this study, is therefore that organizations that identify a relationship between working conditions and absenteeism, are more likely to take precautionary actions. Other hypotheses examine possible determinants of this opinion.

To test the formulated hypotheses, logistic regressions are estimated using information from 600 Dutch SMEs. According to the empirical results, the probability of identifying a relationship between working conditions and absenteeism depends on the employer's assessment of the physical and mental working conditions, on reported physical health complaints and stress complaints, on absence rates and on the number of employees. The main hypothesis of this study is rejected: whether or not such a relationship is identified, is not related to the probability that precautionary measures are taken. Instead, firms are more likely to take precautionary measures if they have more employees, if a larger share of their employees is performing physically demanding work, if physical complaints are made, and if a Risk Inventory and Evaluation has been performed.


You can order the report 'Precautionary actions within small and medium-sized enterprises (price EUR 16,-) through e-mail:, by fax (+ 31 79 341 50 24) or by phone (+ 31 79 341 36 34), stating the order number H200106. On receipt of your order an invoice will be enclosed. Alternatively, you can download this publication on our Knowledge Website for SMEs and Entrepreneurship (no charge).

Voor inlichtingen: 079 343 06 04

Precautionary actions within small and medium-sized enterprises

18 januari 2002

The study examines the factors ensuring that Dutch small and medium-sized enterprises implement measures to prevent staff absenteeism. In many cases, staff absenteeism is caused by illness, accidents or other reasons (leave, strikes, et cetera).
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Auteur(s): dr. J.M.P. de Kok


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