Workplace absence due to short-term illness reached a record high in Belgium last year, Belga News Agency and l'Echo have reported.
According to data recently published by Acerta, a Belgian consultancy specialising in human resources, the average Belgian worker took 7.5 days off work in 2022 because of a short-term illness — one day more than in 2021 and two days more than in 2020. A short-term illness is defined as one which lasts less than 30 days.
In addition, Acerta found that one in seven workers stayed home at least one day per month last year due to a short-term illness: also a record number which comfortably beat the figures for both 2021 (one in eight) and 2019 (one in ten).
According to Laura Couchard, a legal counsel at Acerta, there is no single reason for the marked increase in short-term workplace absenteeism last year.
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"Since the coronavirus, people are more likely to stay at home when they feel worse," Couchard explained. "Teleworking, which makes it possible to keep those who have only mild symptoms active, has declined in 2022. In addition, crisis periods have followed one another, resulting in stress and a high workload that weigh on mental well-being, which also impacts the rate of absenteeism due to illness."
The study, whose data pool included 260,000 workers across more than 40,000 private companies, found that increases in workplace absenteeism due to short-term sickness occurred across all industries, ages and company sizes. However, it found that employees aged 30 to 35 were the most likely to take time off work and that December was the month most people chose to call in sick.
Since the end of November 2022, Belgian workers are no longer obliged to provide a medical certificate confirming their illness for the first day of their absence from work; they may do this three times per calendar year. After this, the employer has the right, but not the obligation, to demand that the employee substantiate his or her absence with a medical certificate.