Regulatory mechanisms for absenteeism in the health sector: A systematic review of strategies and their implementation

Angela N. Kisakye, Raymond Tweheyo, Freddie Ssengooba, George W. Pariyo, Elizeus Rutebemberwa, Suzanne N. Kiwanuka

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background: A systematic review was undertaken to identify regulatory mechanisms aimed at mitigating health care worker absenteeism, to describe where and how they have been implemented as well as their possible effects. The goal was to propose potential policy options for managing the problem of absenteeism among human resources for health in low- and middleincome countries. Mechanisms described in this review are at the local workplace and broader national policy level. Methods: A comprehensive online search was conducted on EMBASE, CINAHL, PubMed, Google Scholar, Google, and Social Science Citation Index using MEDLINE search terms. Retrieved studies were uploaded onto reference manager and screened by two independent reviewers. Only publications in English were included. Data were extracted and synthesized according to the objectives of the review. Results: Twenty six of the 4,975 published articles retrieved were included. All were from highincome countries and covered all cadres of health workers. The regulatory mechanisms and possible effects include 1) organizational-level mechanisms being reported as effective in curbing absenteeism in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs); 2) prohibition of private sector activities in LMICs offering benefits but presenting a challenge for the government to monitor the health workforce; 3) contractual changes from temporary to fixed posts having been associated with no reduction in absenteeism and not being appropriate for LMICs; 4) multifaceted work interventions being implemented in most settings; 5) the possibility of using financial and incentive regulatory mechanisms in LMICs; 6) health intervention mechanisms reducing absenteeism when integrated with exercise programs; and 7) attendance by legislation during emergencies being criticized for violating human rights in the United States and not being effective in curbing absenteeism. Conclusion: Most countries have applied multiple strategies to mitigate health care worker absenteeism. The success of these interventions is heavily influenced by the context within which they are applied.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)81-94
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Healthcare Leadership
StatePublished - 2016


  • Absenteeism
  • Health workers
  • Regulatory mechanisms
  • Systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Leadership and Management
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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