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'A unique working environment': health, sickness and absence management in UK call centres

Taylor, Phil and Baldry, Chris and Bain, Peter and Ellis, Vaughan (2003) 'A unique working environment': health, sickness and absence management in UK call centres. Work, Employment and Society, 17 (3). pp. 435-458. ISSN 0959-0170

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Abstract

This article fills an important gap in our knowledge of call centres by focusing specifically on occupational ill-health. We document the recent emergence of health and safety concerns, assess the responses of employers and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), critique the existing regulatory framework and present a holistic diagnostic model of occupationally induced ill-health. This model is utilized to investigate quantitative and qualitative data from a case study in the privatized utility sector, where the relative contributions to employee sickness and ill-health from factors relating to ergonomics, the built environment and work organization are evaluated. The principal conclusions are that the distinctive character of call-handling is the major cause of occupational ill-health and that effective remedial action would involve radical job re-design. Finally, the limitations of recent HSE guidance are exposed and industrial relations processes and outcomes analysed.