Precarious Work and Health: The Roles of Organisational Justice and Work-Life Conflict

Precarious employment is considered to be a significant determinant of health inequalities worldwide.  However, the factors that influence this relationship require explication.

Fairness at work, or organisational justice, is associated with positive health outcomes and has received attention within precariousness research.  Work-life conflict has also been linked to both precariousness and to justice, and may help to explain health outcomes in this context.  This thesis investigated the influence of organisational justice and work-life conflict on the relationship between precarious work and health.

Katrina Leonard

Participants for this study included employees aged 18 to 74 (53% women) from various occupations, organisations, industries, and sectors; they were based across every state and territory of Australia.  Two waves of data were collected in 2013 using telephone surveys.  Respondents were randomly-selected from national databases.  Participants at Time 1 (N=1015) were invited to take part again six months later; 560 were re-interviewed and the majority (n=509) were also employed at Time 2.

Study 1 showed that organisational justice mediated rather than moderated the relationship between subjective precariousness and emotional exhaustion with a medium effect size (к2=.19).  Study 2 showed that work-life conflict mediated rather than moderated the relationship between justice and exhaustion with a small effect (к2=.08).  Study 3 showed that subjective precariousness, distributive justice, and strain-based work-life conflict, together explained 38 percent of the variance in exhaustion among workers.  Structural equation modelling showed a small double mediation effect (β=.13, p=.000), whereby distributive justice and strain-based conflict both explained the relationship between precariousness and exhaustion.

To the author’s knowledge, this thesis represents the first application of the justice model to precarious work in Australia.  Results indicate that distributive justice and strain-based work-life conflict may help to explain, rather than mitigate or intensify, the relationship between precariousness and health.

Results were consistent with equity and social exchange theories as well as conservation of resources theory.  Interventions that facilitate fair outcomes in the workplace and support emotional work-life balance may promote positive health outcomes for precarious workers.  Organisational justice and work-life balance could potentially be important targets for workplace regulation and labour policy.

By Katrina Leonard, PhD Candidate, University of Sydney

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