Dutch employees too scared to call in sick?

Fear of unemployment has led to a sizeable reduction in the number of sick days taken by Dutch employees this year.

The sickness absence rate among employees in the Netherlands was reduced to 3.9 percent in 2013, i.e. at any one time 39 in every one thousand employees were absent due to sickness. The rate reached the lowest level since the current sickness absence survey was started up in 1996, according to figures released by Statistics Netherlands.

After a period of stabilisation between 2004 and 2011, the sickness absence rate was reduced further in the past two years. Last year, only 39 in every one thousand employees were ill. Possibly, there is a relation between the low sickness absence rate and the poor economic situation.

The sickness absence rate has not been this low in the past eighteen years. Sickness absence has fallen continually since the introduction of the Gatekeeper Improvement Act in 2002. Under this act, employers are obliged to closely monitor the sickness absence process and to promote re-integration of sick employees.

Rate low in small companies
The sickness absence rate tends to be higher in large companies. In companies employing fewer than ten people, the rate was 1.6 percent in 2013. With 3.4 percent, the rate was more than twice as high in companies with a staff ranging from ten to ninety-nine people. In large companies employing one hundred or more people, the rate was nearly three times as high as in small companies (4.7 percent).

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, sickness absence was also related to company size. Compared to 2001, absence due to sickness has declined irrespective of the number of staff. In the period 2001-2013, the sickness absence rate declined most in large companies, by 2.4 percentage points. In small and medium-sized companies, the sickness absence rate declined by 1.3 percentage points.

Sector hotels and restaurants has lowest sickness absence rate
The sickness absence rate varies by sector. In 2013, the lowest rate (2.2 percent) was recorded in the sector hotels and restaurants. This is partly due to the fact that many small businesses are active in this sector and the average age is the lowest of all sectors. Absence due to sickness tends to increase as people grow older. The sickness absence rate was also relatively low in agriculture and financial services. These sectors also include many small businesses.

The sickness absence rate was relatively high in sectors like education, public administration, health care and welfare and water and waste management. These sectors include many large companies.

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