Insight into absenteeism. That matters more.

An unprecedented high rise of 33% in the number of persons reporting sick in November

The number of sick reports in education rose by 77%

In November 2021, the average absenteeism rate in the Netherlands has risen further by an exceptionally high percentage of 5.1%. Also the number of sick reports in November has risen higher than ever in any single month – a rise of 33%. Flu and COVID-19 are the main causes of absenteeism. This emerges from figures from ArboNed and HumanCapitalCare, both part of HumanTotalCare and jointly serving around one million working people.

Absenteeism in November is exceptionally high

The average absenteeism rate in the Netherlands broke all-time records, rising by 5.1% in November. In SME companies (up to 250 employees) this rate is on average 4.7%. As usual, this is lower than in large companies. Last Friday, CBS reported that already with a 4.6% rise in the absenteeism rate in the third quarter, this rise is the highest since the implementation of the Eligibility for Permanent Invalidity Benefit (Restrictions) Act (Dutch: Wet Verbetering Poortwachter) in 2002. In November 2021, the number of sick reports that ArboNed and HumanCapitalCare jointly received increased by one third compared to the previous month, while in November we usually see a stabilisation in the number of sick reports. In all the sectors, this figure remains momentarily above the level of 2019 and 2020.

Striking increase of 77% in education

In the healthcare sector, the sick leave rate is always the highest. In November 2021, the occupational health & safety services received 37% more sick reports from the healthcare sector than in the previous month. With that figure, the average absenteeism rate in healthcare increased further from 6.1% in October to 7.0% in November. “With a rate increase of 6.2%, the education sector also showed a strikingly negative result,” says Truus van Amerongen, medical officer and director medical affairs at ArboNed. “The number of sick reports in education has risen to 77% in a single month. That means 14 reports of sickness per 100 employees in education. As far as we know, this was the highest increase that we have ever measured.”

Immense impact of Long-COVID

In November, flu and Covid-19 were the major causes of absenteeism, each one accounted for around 30% of the sick reports. Beginning from the start of the pandemic, the share of corona absenteeism fluctuated between 7 and 10% of the total number of sick-leave days. A small share of these employees continued to experience problems for longer periods; 11% has yet to return to work after 12 weeks. “Yet this small group is responsible for more than half of the total number of corona sick-leave days,” continues Van Amerongen. “This has immense impact. We have noticed that if people who report sick indicate that they suffer greatly from symptoms of the illness, they are short of breath and tired, then this is often a predictor of long-term absence. Factors such as age and gender also play a role in this. Counselling these employees has to be customised. Check the individual possibilities carefully and where necessary, recruit specialised help on time.”

Whenever possible, postpone work tasks in order to prevent overload

In December, the occupational health & safety services expect the measures taken at the end of November to have noticeable effects and to see a drop in absenteeism. Van Amerongen: “We call upon the Dutch workforce to endure the situation and to comply with the recommendations of the Dutch government. The measures truly contribute to reducing the number of infections with a 'by-catch' of also limiting the spread of the flu. Therefore, working from home (unless this is impossible), taking hygiene measures and – in case of symptoms – staying home and getting tested. Do not take any risks by coming to work when you have symptoms. Furthermore, we advise employers to pay extra attention to colleagues who are working and are probably required to fill in the extra gaps in the work process. Take a critical look at the work that really needs to be done and postpone some of the tasks in order to prevent unnecessary overload.”