One in three sick days is due to stress, minister takes action

Social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher is to make reducing absenteeism due to work-related stress a priority, with a major campaign starting in April.

One-third of days taken off sick by Dutch workers are stress-related, Asscher said in a statement. He is now drawing up a four-year plan to tackle what is the biggest cause of absenteeism facing Dutch companies. The budget for enacting the plan next year is set at €1m.

Too much pressure, discrimination, bullying, sexual intimidation and violence on the shop floor are all causes of work-related stress, Asscher said in his briefing to parliament. It can also stem from the struggle to combine work with family care duties.

Flexible contracts

In particular, people on flexible contracts and people who also care for sick relatives are vulnerable to work-related stress. In 2012, 2.1 million workers reported they had to regularly work under too much pressure, while one million had to deal with bullying or other undesirable behaviour, Asscher said.

There needs to be a cultural change in companies, involving both workers and employers, Asscher said. His plans will initially be based on breaking through the wall of silence surrounding work-related stress and its causes.

The minister also plans to involve personnel departments and works councils to ensure they pay sufficient attention to work-related stress. Social affairs ministry inspectors will also be asked to be more alert.

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