Major concerns over absenteeism, ‘workload incredibly high’

Headlined BNR this week. Over forty percent of SME entrepreneurs worry about high staff absenteeism. So concludes insurer Interpolis from a survey. ‘Many people are very loyal and keep working long hours while they have complaints,’ said Hans Biesheuvel, chairman of Ondernemend Nederland. High absenteeism has been going on for a while. Biesheuvel also concludes that. ‘Actually since the beginning of the corona crisis.’ The chairman of Ondernemend Nederland concludes that the workload is incredibly high. ‘Then when employees drop out, they are sick a little longer right away.’

Biesheuvel’s main message to employers is to engage with their staff more often. ‘If the pressure is too high, you have to see how you can organize it together.’ And he says that pressure will remain high for some time: “the difficult conditions, such as the labor shortage, will continue for years to come. Biesheuvel realizes that this is not as obvious for every employer. ‘Not every entrepreneur is used to having that kind of conversation. Nine in ten companies in the Netherlands do not have a human resources department. The entrepreneur then has to manage it all himself.’ Many entrepreneurs are primarily concerned with the survival of their business, Biesheuvel fears, due in part to the corona and energy crises. ‘Still, you should always take employee complaints seriously. Even if it is not easy to make that consideration.’

The world upside down!

Not every entrepreneur is used to engaging in conversation, and nine out of 10 companies in the Netherlands do not have a human resources department. We are also noticing an increase in absenteeism among our clients. Most strikingly, action on absenteeism often does not occur until it is actually “too late.” And by “too late” we actually mean: when people start to realize that it does cost a lot of money (a sick employee costs on average about €250 per day). The costs are often (unfortunately) the trigger to take action only then. The fact that many organizations do not have an HR department does not change this. Attention to your employees, genuine interest and periodic chats cost nothing.

Passive role of health and safety services

The newspapers are full of quotes from nationwide occupational health services about rising absenteeism. The fact is, they are very likely to make good money on this. Unfortunately, the average health and safety service does not have initial contact with a sick employee until around the fourth week of illness, and that is far too late. Being more responsive to prevention would be to the credit of many health and safety services. But then again, what is left of the revenue model. We speak to an awful lot of business owners who are at a loss for words, out of helplessness and frustration around sick leave and the reactive attitude of their health and safety service. Common complaints: “We never hear anything, there is no source approach, we don’t get the right support etc.”

If you assume that about seventy percent of employees who are sick for six weeks stay sick for more than a year, you would say that there should be much more steering for a proactive and especially preventive approach. – Rik Berghout, Director of Panthion and ViaMensa

Act promptly and don’t wait for someone to drop out

To govern is to foresee. The clients in the lead usually call us before someone drops out due to sick leave. They pay attention to their employees, engage in dialogue and often deploy a preventive program (and also bear the costs for their employee, sick or otherwise): a psychologist, a physical therapist, a (walking) coach, a vitality program, etc. are solutions that are often deployed. And yes, this involves upfront investment without sick leave. That may sometimes be a hard sell internally. Many employers (especially within SMEs), don’t see absenteeism as a problem until their employees are absent for long periods of time and/or absenteeism starts costing too much money. However, from a business case it quickly becomes clear that business owner and employee can only gain (in satisfaction, quality and costs) if they take a proactive and preventive approach.

How can we help?

One option is to explore the programs and training we offer. In addition, we are often used for questions where there is not yet a sick leave issue, but it may come up. A vitality coach who pays attention to wellness, nutrition and exercise can play a big role in this. Organizations that commit to sick leave prevention see a significant decrease in their absenteeism (short- and long-term).

Tip: Also, have a conversation with your health and safety service and ask them critically about their services: shorter lines, an active(er) role and preventive modules for employees.  

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