Factors influencing improved attendance in the UK Fire Service

Ian Litchfield, Paul Hinckley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
178 Downloads (Pure)


Sickness absence rates in the UK continue to exceed those in much of the developed world, with an annual cost to employers of £29 billion. Rates of sickness absence in the public sector are higher than those in the private sector, with the exception of the fire service where they are consistently lower.
To understand the influences that increase attendance among operational firefighters.
A series of semi-structured interviews undertaken with operational staff to explore their attitudes to sickness absence.
Review and analysis of participant responses identified a number of key themes, namely employee well-being, including physical fitness and mental health; employee engagement with the fire service as manifested by culture, experience, nature of the job and leadership; organizational factors including the staffing model and relationship with occupational health services and policy, which describes both refinements to and implementation of targeted policies.
Previously observed factors such as improved fitness and the distinct firefighter culture play a role, yet other factors emerged that could explain the differences. These include the greater work–life balance offered by their shift patterns, the terms and conditions of employment and perhaps most importantly the evolution of precisely targeted policies that understand the unique nature of the operational fire service.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)731-736
JournalOccupational Medicine
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 3 Nov 2016


  • sick leave
  • Healthy workplaces
  • occupational health management
  • occupational stress
  • sickness absence


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