The Impact of Sickness Absence in Belgian Companies

November 13, 2023

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173 fines and 290 warnings in response to the number of long-term sick employees

Ina recent development, the Belgian federal government has fined 173 companies for an excessive number of long-term sick employees. These sanctions, amounting to a total of 1.38 million euros, were imposed as part of a broader initiative to address the increasing number of long-term sickness absences. This information was revealed by PVDA (Partij van de Arbeid) Member of Parliament Marco Van Hees after questioning Minister of Social Affairs Frank Vandenbroucke (Vooruit), as reported by Het Laatste Nieuws.

Employees long-term on inactive status: A growing problem

Belgium is facing a concerning increase in the number of long-term sick individuals. Currently, it concerns half a million people, and the Planning Bureau expects this number to rise to 600,000 by 2035. Sectors such as cleaning companies, hospitals, and residential care centers are the hardest hit, with high rates of attrition.

Government versus Corporate Culture

In 2022, Minister Vandenbroucke introduced a plan to help long-term sick individuals return to the workplace more quickly. This plan not only emphasized the support for sick employees but also the responsibility of employers. Vandenbroucke and the National Social Security Office (RSZ) targeted companies with a significantly higher rate of sickness absence than average in their sector, indicating potential issues in corporate culture.

Financial penalties and warnings

Of the companies investigated, 173 were fined, resulting in a total amount of 1.38 million euros. These funds are being used for the prevention and management of long-term sickness absence. In addition, another 290 companies received a warning These measures highlight the seriousness with which the government is addressing this issue and the need for a revision of corporate culture.

Working Towards a Sustainable Solution

This situation highlights the need for a healthy corporate culture and the importance of preventive actions to reduce sickness absence. It’s a call for companies to invest more in the physical, mental,social en financial health and well-being of their employees.

“B-Tonic supports companies and organizations in establishing an effective and sustainable customized well-being policy  using advanced tools and scans.. These tools help organizations identify the specific needs and challenges of their employees and respond with customized strategies. This can contribute to a reduction in the frequency and duration of sickness absence.

A proactive approach focusing on the Social Pillar

Organizations and companies committed to ESG principles (Environmental, Social, and Governance) can utilize the People Sustainability Scan for a proactive approach to employee well-being. In ESG reporting, wellbeing falls under the S of Social, alongside the other two pillars, Environmental and Governance.
Implementing a People Sustainability Scan encourages your organization to take a proactive approach. Instead of reacting to high sickness absence after it occurs, your organization can take preventive measures to promote, among other things, the mental-emotional well-being and physical health of your employees.

This approach highlights the importance of a thoughtful and employee-focused well-being policy. As the health and sustainable well-being of employees are increasingly receiving attention, we offer your organization the opportunity not only to meet government expectations, but also to create a positive and supportive work environment that benefits both the employees and your organization as a whole.

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maartje vanewijk

Annelies Theunissen
People Sustainability Expert

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