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Occupational ill-health and absence management under a lean regime in the UK civil service

Taylor, Philip and Carter, R. and Danford, A. and Howcroft, D. and Richardson, R. and Smith, A. (2010) Occupational ill-health and absence management under a lean regime in the UK civil service. In: Work, Employment and Society Conference 2010, 2010-09-07 - 2010-09-09.

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Abstract

Occupational health and safety remains under-researched in the sociology of work and employment, notwithstanding the seminal work of Nichols (1997) and recent contributions (e.g. Lloyd and James, 2008). Although the ‘unique working environment’ of the call centre stimulated some notable studies (Deery et al, 2002), clerical work generally has attracted less attention. Consequently, this paper reports on white-collar workers’ perceptions and experiences following the path-breaking introduction of lean working into Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, driven by the Gershon review’s efficiency savings. Research design and analysis adopted an holistic model of white-collar occupational ill-health (Taylor et al. 2003). Drawing on quantitative data (840 self-completed surveys) and qualitative sources (semi-structured interviews with managers and union reps) from 6 representative worksites, the findings demonstrate that the abrupt arrival of lean’s brutal form of Taylorism has generated widespread ill-health and sickness. The implementation of punitive sickness absence policy is seen to compound the severity of this alarming situation. ReferencesDeery, S., Iverson, R. and Walsh, J. (2002) ‘Work relationships in telephone call centres: understanding emotional exhaustion and employee withdrawal’, Journal of Management Studies, 39.4:471-496Lloyd, C. and James, S. (2008) ‘Too much pressure? Retailer power and occupational health and safety in the food processing industry’, Work, Employment and Society, 22.4:713-730Nichols, T. (1997) The Sociology of Industrial Injury, London: MansellTaylor, P., Baldry, C., Bain, P. and Ellis, V. (2003) ‘”A unique working environment”: health, sickness and absence management in UK call centres’, Work, Employment and Society, 17.3:435-458