Number of sick days by Dutch employees hits 18-year low

Number of sick days by Dutch employees hits 18-year low

According to the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), employees in the Netherlands took notably few sick days in 2014, producing a drop in illness-related work absences to levels not seen since 1996.

Sick days by workplace type

At any given time in 2014, only 3,8 per cent of Dutch employees were home sick, as opposed to 4,2 per cent in 2010 and 5,5 per cent - a record high since recording began - in 2000.

Employees working in public administration, education and health care were the most likely to take sick days, while those in the hotel and restaurant industry took the fewest.

This difference may be due to the relative ages of employees engaged in each sector. As workers at hotels and restaurants tend to be young, they are less likely to require time off for illness than the (frequently) older employees at hospitals, schools and government offices.

They are also more likely to be working at small businesses as opposed to larger institutions - and workplace size has been shown to affect the likelihood of an employee taking a sick day.

Explaining the trend

The figures for 2014 conform to a pattern that is traceable back to 2002, when the frequency of sickness-related absences first began to decline as a result of the Gatekeeper Improvement Act.

The Act requires employers to monitor sick employees and take measures to integrate them back into a regular work schedule.

When the Gatekeeper Act was first introduced, it resulted in a drop in sick day frequency which held more or less steady from 2004 until 2011. That year, employees began once again to take progressively fewer and fewer sick days, and the downward trend has continued.

CBS analysts attribute this development partly to the climate of job insecurity caused by the economic crisis. Employees have been facing increased pressure to avoid losing their jobs and may have been reluctant to take sick days for fear of disappointing their employers.

Finally, data from Dutch doctors show that flu season - in general, the main reason for employees to call in sick - was less severe in 2014 than in previous years, meaning that employees were simply sick less often.

Emily McCallum


Emily McCallum

Emily grew up in a small coastal town in western Canada and moved to Utrecht in 2014, after completing her studies in Vancouver and Germany. So far, she has been...

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