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The relationship between payment systems, work intensification and health and safety outcomes: a study of hotel room attendants

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This paper examines the impact of payment systems on workers' exposure to body-stressing injuries. Data are drawn from interviews with managers and focus groups of room attendants in Australian luxury hotels. We find that the most important factor predicting work-related bodily injury is the payment system. Payment on the basis of the number of rooms cleaned (piece rates) was found to result in task 'speed-up'. The capacity to earn a living wage was therefore reliant on work intensification, leading to the use of unsafe working methods and injury. By contrast, attendants paid an hourly wage worked at a slower pace, earned a living wage and sustained fewer, if any, injuries. Mediating factors include the shift towards the contracting-out of housekeeping services to labour hire agencies, which typically pay on a per room basis, and their preference for employing migrant workers on temporary work visas. The paper concludes by considering regulatory strategies that might be used to reduce the incidence of work-related injuries among room attendants and workers subject to similar modes of employment in other sectors.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 30, 2011

More about this publication?
  • Policy and Practice in Health and Safety is an international journal published twice a year. It's designed as a forum for academic and policy discourse on health and safety and is aimed at those who practise, tutor, research or study health and safety regulation and management. All published papers have undergone a double-blind refereeing process by at least two referees.

    Policy and Practice is an important source of reference for anyone studying or working at a professional level in health and safety. It'll help to keep you up to speed on developing debates on a wide range of topics.

    The editor, David Walters, Professor of Work Environment at the Cardiff Work Environment Research Centre, leads Policy and Practice's authoritative international editorial board. The journal addresses practical workplace health and safety issues as well as focusing on a broader context - the social, economic and political discussions that shape employment and work.

    Subjects covered in recent issues include comparisons of different regulatory and management frameworks, case studies of occupational safety and health in individual locations, and the impact of economic and political factors on health and safety.
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