Productivity cost calculations in health economic evaluations: Correcting for compensation mechanisms and multiplier effects

Marieke Krol*, Werner B. F. Brouwer, Johan L. Severens, Janneke Kaper, Silvia M. A. A. Evers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Productivity costs related to paid work are commonly calculated in economic evaluations of health technologies by multiplying the relevant number of work days lost with a wage rate estimate. It has been argued that actual productivity costs may either be lower or higher than current estimates due to compensation mechanisms and/or multiplier effects (related to team dependency and problems with finding good substitutes in cases of absenteeism). Empirical evidence on such mechanisms and their impact on productivity costs is scarce, however. This study aims to increase knowledge on how diminished productivity is compensated within firms. Moreover, it aims to explore how compensation and multiplier effects potentially affect productivity cost estimates. Absenteeism and compensation mechanisms were measured in a randomized trial among Dutch citizens examining the cost-effectiveness of reimbursement for smoking cessation treatment. Multiplier effects were extracted from published literature. Productivity costs were calculated applying the Friction Cost Approach. Regular estimates were subsequently adjusted for (i) compensation during regular working hours, (ii) job dependent multipliers and (iii) both compensation and multiplier effects. A total of 187 respondents included in the trial were useful for inclusion in this study, based on being in paid employment, having experienced absenteeism in the preceding six months and completing the questionnaire on absenteeism and compensation mechanisms. Over half of these respondents stated that their absenteeism was compensated during normal working hours by themselves or colleagues. Only counting productivity costs not compensated in regular working hours reduced the traditional estimate by 57%. Correcting for multiplier effects increased regular estimates by a quarter. Combining both impacts decreased traditional estimates by 29%. To conclude, large amounts of lost production are compensated in normal hours. Productivity costs estimates are strongly influenced by adjustment for compensation mechanisms and multiplier effects. The validity of such adjustments needs further examination, however.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1981-1988
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012


  • The Netherlands
  • Economic evaluation
  • Methodology
  • Absenteeism
  • Productivity costs
  • Compensation mechanisms
  • Team dependency


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