Absenteeism due to influenza and Covid-19 increases again

Staying attentive to preventive measures at the workplace is essential for the continuity of companies

Son – 20 October 2022. The average absenteeism rate in the Netherlands increased in September to 4.3% compared to 4% in August 2022, according to figures of occupational health & safety services ArboNed and HumanCapitalCare, which are both part of the HumanTotalCare group and jointly work for approximately 1 million employed persons and 63,000 employers. Now that the Covid-19 and influenza virus are resurfacing in October, it is important to stay attentive to preventive measures that keep employees healthy and safe at work, as well as to prevent any additional risks to the continuity of companies.

Influenza and Covid-19 are the key drivers of absenteeism

In August, the absenteeism rates almost decreased to the normal pre-pandemic rates of 2019, but in September 2022, the absenteeism rates in the Netherlands increased again. Although this increase is common for this time of year, the increase in the number of sick reports is hitting many companies hard. “In the past few weeks, we have witnessed an increase in the number of sick reports and the flu and Covid-19 are the key drivers,” says Redmer van Wijngaarden, medical officer and director of medical affairs at ArboNed. “In the first week of October, approximately one-third of the sick reports that we received were related to the flu or flu-like symptoms and approximately a quarter to Covid-19. Especially the number of Covid-19-related cases of absenteeism is increasing very fast.”

Prevent any additional risks to continuity

So far, the increase in the number of Covid-19 cases has not led to an alarming number of hospital admissions. Nevertheless, the impact on the work floor is noticeable. We were already dealing with high absenteeism rates that resulted from psychological complaints, among other things. Add to that the tight labour market, which makes it difficult to employ help. Now that the influenza and Covid-19 virus are resurfacing it is essential for employers to keep their employees safe and healthy at work, to prevent additional risks to the continuity of businesses, especially smaller ones, and to prevent a further increase of the work pressure on healthy employees.

Stay attentive to preventive measures

“Stay alert to the Covid-19 policy for the work floor and if necessary, take preventive measures,” says Van Wijngaarden. “You can also decrease the number of influenza infections by following the basic rules. It could be useful to implement a ‘runny nose protocol’ in which you make clear agreements about when employees should and should not come to work and what you can do to prevent infections. And it remains inevitably important to pay attention to employees who have to carry out extra work and to cover for sick employees.”

Sector-specific approach

Which measures are exactly necessary in case of Covid-19 and the flu mainly depends on the type of work carried out. Employers in various sectors know by now which measures work and which don’t work for them. The government has organised the measures from the sector-oriented plan in a measures priority list to prevent that a sector needs to shut down. It is important for employers to adapt the sector-oriented plans to their own plan of action as part of the Risk Inventory & Evaluation (RI&E). You can do this by adding a Covid-19 module to your RI&E and keeping it up to date.