More people call in sick for longer due to Corona ‘change in moral outlook’

Catering sector wages have increased. Photo: Jan Kranendok via
Staff wanted Photo: Jan Kranendok via

People are calling in sick more often and for longer than before the coronavirus crisis, the latest quarterly figures from occupational healthcare organisation Arbo Unie have shown.

The number of people staying home due to illness this summer has gone up by 10% compared to pre-corona figures, the organisation found. The number of days spent away from work has also gone up, from four to eight days pre-corona to a current high of nine to 11 days.

Professor of occupational healthcare and Arbo Unie doctor Corné Roelen said the coronavirus crisis had prompted a ‘change in people’s moral outlook. ‘Coming in and sitting next to your colleague or on a bus coughing and spluttering is simply not done any more,’ he said. ‘We see and hear that people call in sick and stay at home until they are completely better.’

Other reasons for the rise in the number of sick days may be increased pressure in a tight labour market, Roelen said. ‘People may feel they can’t face going back into a hectic working environment after a short period of time.’

In some sectors, such as the hospitality industry and construction, more people have called in sick for longer but in healthcare the opposite is true.

According to Roelen, this may be because care workers feel they have a responsibility towards patients which stops them from calling in sick, especially when they see colleagues succumbing to illness.

That is not necessarily a good thing, Roelen said. ‘It is unhealthy if people continue to work when they are at the end of their tether. That must stop.’

Laurens Meyer, who owns 50 bars and 15 Burger King franchises, confirms staff sick days are mounting, in his case from 1% before corona to 6 to 8% this summer. People have had it ‘drummed into them’ to call in sick even when they have the slightest of sniffles and that is still happening, Meyer, who currently has 200 vacancies to fill, told the AD.

The number of sick days in the construction industry has almost doubled, from 13,000 to 25,000, the Arbo Unie found. This too can be credited to more pressure in a tight labour market, Roelen said. At the same time, the demands made on a smaller group of workers are also a sign the economy is doing well, Roelen said. ‘When the economy slows down, fewer people will call in sick. But when things look up people have less compunction about doing so,’ he told the paper.

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