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

11 Jan 2012

This publication was produced by Sarah Oxenbridge and Maja Moensted as part of the LHMU/WorkCover Assist Funded Research Project into Australian Room Attendants.

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.

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The publication can be found here: