Federal public health mini9ster Maggie De Block is reported to be working on a set of guidelines which would set maximum terms during which people suffering from eight conditions could take paid sick leave from work. The limits are intended to be guidelines for doctors, her department said, and would not be strict rules. Each case of the same condition differs from the others, depending on the nature of the disease and the overall health of the patient.
The eight conditions selected have been shown to be well represented among those people who extend their sick leave unnecessarily, even with a doctor’s certificate. They are all, in addition, liable to lead to long-term absence even without cheating.
They are: lower back pain, anxiety and depression, heart attack, burn-out, breast cancer, knee prosthesis and shoulder and wrist injuries.
Factors to be taken into account when determining the length of any sick leave would include the age of the patient, the nature of their job and any other complicating medical conditions.
De Block stressed the new guidelines, which have still to be finalised before coming into force, are not aimed at saving money, but are an “aid” for doctors. “GPs cannot be expected to predict how long an incapacity for work will last,” she said. And she pointed out that similar systems are in operation in France and in Sweden.
The growth in long-term sick leave has in recent years been “explosive,” according to Professor Philippe Mariaux of the university of Liege and chair of the National College for Social Health Insurance. At the end of last year, for the first time, more than 400,000 people had been off work sick for longer than a year.