Absenteeism will remain high due to staff shortages, experts warn
The number of employees staying at home due to illness will continue to rise as long as staff shortages and work pressure remain high, according to labor market experts commenting on the absenteeism rate. This is reaching record heights according to a report by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) released on Friday.
Due to staff shortages in sectors such as healthcare, employees have to do the same amount of work but with fewer colleagues. This increases the likelihood of burnout, for example.
Personnel shortages, particularly in healthcare, persist because of this "vicious circle,” said Ton Wilthagen, labor market professor at Tilburg University. More staff, he said, is needed to break this pattern. "We need to get to work people who do not work or only work a little," and they must be placed in salaried positions, he argued. "Offering higher wages in one sector is not enough because people will then move away from other sectors, leading to more shortages."
Wilthagen observed that the labor market will continue to be affected by personnel shortages for at least thirty years. To relieve the pressure on employees, he suggests a reorganization of labor and the use of technology.
According to researcher Maroesjka Versantvoort of the Social and Cultural Planning Office (SCP), the number of sick employees will remain high as long as the causes of absenteeism are not addressed. "Not only labor market shortages but also the pursuit of maximum efficiency and productivity in our society lead to performance pressure and overwork. This increases the risk of burnout, and cannot be solved with a single policy.”
Setting realistic expectations for both employers and employees, focussing on prevention measures, and providing support for overwork can make a significant difference, according to Versantvoort. “As long as we continue to live in a performance-driven society, absenteeism will remain high,” she said.
Wilthagen believes that preventing people from getting sick is not given enough attention. There needs to be more focus on work that is psychologically and socially demanding, and the consequences that come with it. For example, police officers face a higher risk of being exposed to aggressive situations. In addition, he pointed out the importance of taking time off and sabbatical leaves. "Although this is paradoxical because employees are temporarily unavailable for work, it increases their sustainability in the long run."
Reporting by ANP