Sick leave, work stress cost the economy over €18 billion last year
Sick leave dented the Dutch economy by more than 18 billion euros last year, according to insurance firm Nationale-Nederlanden. Coronavirus was among several causes of the increase, which also included longer periods of absenteeism, the insurer detailed in a report on developments in the field of absenteeism and work incapacity.
In recent years, the absenteeism rate in the Netherlands has risen sharply. In 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic, the rate was 4.4 percent. It rose to 4.8 percent the following year, and to 4.9 percent in 2021. The study found that the absenteeism rate also rose along with the size of the companies involved in the research. There is also more absenteeism in the winter than during the warmer months.
Employees have not called in sick more often in recent years, but they did remain sick for longer periods. This is partly due to Covid-19, but sick employees sometimes found it more difficult to get back to work when they had to work from home, NN said.
Work stress was the cause of absenteeism in more than a third of cases. Physically demanding labor accounted for more than 15 percent of absenteeism.
For many years, absenteeism among older workers has been higher than among younger employees. The cause behind the sick leave is often more complicated and requires a longer recovery time. With the aging population, this will remain a problem in the coming years. People over 55 have the greatest chance of becoming incapacitated for work, according to NN. The insurer also sees long-term Covid symptoms as a possible problem.
In recent years, the number of applications for disability benefits has also increased. This has been difficult for the agency administering benefits, UWV, to keep up and meet demand.
It is important to find a balance between the workload and the employees’ capabilities in order to limit dropout and incapacity for work, according to NN. This means companies must do more to ensure the well-being of workers, such as guaranteeing that people have genuine free time during which they are not required to think about work.
Employers can also develop more ways to reduce the amount of work stress that employees experience.
Reporting by ANP