Sick leave higher again: what can employers do?


Presence or absenteeism: flu wave hits home in the Netherlands

Personnel Management

Absenteeism in the Netherlands is steadily increasing. While the absenteeism rate in 2016 was 3.5 percent, last year it was 4.2 percent. Large companies in particular pull up the average: here, absenteeism was at 5 percent in 2018. This is according to an analysis by health and safety service provider ArboNed of the 2018 absenteeism figures.

Among SMEs with up to 200 employees, absenteeism was much lower at 3.8 percent. In large companies, not only are more people sick, the number of times employees call in sick is also higher.

Also read: The SME absenteeism insurance policy

Short-term absenteeism

Previous figures from ArboNed show that employers spend an average of about 18 percent of their absenteeism costs on so-called short-term absenteeism. This could be caused, for example, by a hefty flu wave, as the Netherlands also experienced at the beginning of 2018, which, according to ArboNed, had a major impact on increased absenteeism rates.

Also read: Six steps against a flu epidemic

However, frequent short-term absenteeism can also be a signal that more is going on. That there is work stress, conflict in the workplace, dissatisfaction with work or salary, or problems in the employee’s personal life. When those problems are not addressed, short-term absenteeism is likely to be a precursor to long-term absenteeism.

Measures against short-term absenteeism

Employers can take the following measures to combat short-term absenteeism:

  • Engage in conversation – If an employee calls in sick regularly and for a short duration, it is wise to engage in a conversation with him and find out what the causes may be. Sometimes a small adjustment in work can solve a lot.
    Also read: This is how to conduct an absence interview
  • Provide an absenteeism protocol – The employer makes the absenteeism policy clear and discusses the rules for absenteeism in the company. For example, employees who call in sick because their child is sick are not actually entitled to continued pay during illness because they are not themselves sick for that reason. It should be made clear to them that there are other solutions to this, such as a day off or possibly emergency leave.
  • Conduct checks – If an employer suspects that an employee is wrongfully absent, the employer, supervisor or colleague can inform themselves by visiting the employee at the nursing address. He can also request an emergency checkup from the health and safety service although more and more health and safety services are shunning this remedy. However, ensure that all avenues of control are described in the sick leave policy to avoid subjective courses of action.
  • Raise the threshold – Reporting sick is generally easily done by text, e-mail or through the partner. It turns out that employees are less likely to call in sick if they have to do so in person with their supervisor and if they have to pass on tasks and assignments that cannot be left on.
  • Set waiting days – An employer can determine not to continue paying wages for the first two days of illness.

Also read: Health management: what is it and how do you achieve success with it?

Psychological complaints

According to ArboNed, one-third of long-term absenteeism has a psychological cause. Despite all the attention to stress and other forms of psychosocial workload (PSA), the number of employees with burnout complaints is increasing. The workload becomes heavier and autonomy in work less. PSA is the most common occupational disease in our country.

Also read: Mental fatigue: what is HR’s role?

Workers with occupational mental illnesses, such as overwork/burnout, depression, absenteeism averages 49 days more than workers without an occupational illness.

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