Opportunities, barriers and facilitators of an indicated prevention strategy to prevent future long-term sickness absence in SMEs: A qualitative study

Dave Stynen*, Inge Houkes, Ludo van Amelsvoort, Nicole Jansen, IJmert Kant

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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BACKGROUND: The efficacy of an indicated prevention strategy for long-term absence due to sickness has been demonstrated and is implemented in multinational companies. Such a strategy may also be beneficial for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). However, due to the different contexts, adaption, and implementation of this strategy in SMEs may be quite different.

OBJECTIVE: This study aims to investigate the opportunities, barriers, and facilitators for adoption and implementation of this preventive strategy, as anticipated by employers and employees of SMEs.

METHODS: A qualitative needs assessment was conducted using semi-structured interviews with higher managers (n = 15) and a focus group with employees (n = 8). Purposive sampling was used, and data were analyzed using content analysis.

RESULTS: Employers had positive expectations concerning the gains of the preventive strategy, whereas employees had more reservations. Anticipated gains and intentions to implement the preventive strategy were rooted in underlying conceptions of the causes of sickness absence and the responsibilities of stakeholders. One key barrier shared across employers and employees concerned the potential lack of confidentiality. For employees, the role of the occupational health professional in the prevention of sickness absence was perceived as uncommon. Employers stressed lack of capacity and resources as a barrier, whereas employees stressed lack of follow-up by the employer as a barrier.

CONCLUSIONS: SMEs are considerably receptive to the implementation of an indicated prevention strategy for long-term absence. Insight into the barriers and facilitators gives clues for wider and optimal implementation across a wider range of organizational settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)871-889
Number of pages19
JournalWORK-A Journal of Prevention Assessment & Rehabilitation
Issue number3
Early online date21 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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