Employee sickness absence increased further in 2019

© Hollandse Hoogte / Richard Brocken
Last year, absenteeism in the public and the private sector due to illness or injury rose to 4.4 percent. This means 44 out of every 1 thousand working days were time lost on sick leave. The rate was still 4.3 percent in 2018 and 3.8 percent in 2014. Again, the highest absenteeism rate was seen in the care sector. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this based on newly released figures from a quarterly monitor on employee absenteeism in the Netherlands.
Illness-related absenteeism varies per quarter and is always higher in the first and last quarter than during the rest of the year. In Q4 2019, it went up to 4.5 percent. The only time this rate was higher was in the first quarters of 2018 (4.7 percent) and 2019 (4.9 percent).

Absenteeism in the public and private sectors (% )
YearQuarterAbsenteeism rate
2014Q14
Q23.7
Q33.5
Q44
2015Q14.4
Q23.7
Q33.5
Q43.9
2016Q14.3
Q23.8
Q33.5
Q44.1
2017Q14.3
Q23.9
Q33.7
Q44.2
2018Q14.9
Q24.1
Q33.9
Q44.3
2019Q14.7
Q24.3
Q34
Q44.5

Absence rate again highest in health care sector

In 2019, employees in the health care sector had the highest absenteeism rates. Ranking second highest were workers at water and waste management companies (both 5.7 percent). Although health care workers have only had the highest absenteeism rate since 2018, it has been above average for years. It is especially high among employees in nursing homes and homes for the elderly: 68 out of each 1,000 working days were missed due to illness.
Prior to 2018, sick leave was most prevalent among government employees (in 2019: 5.5 percent). Last year, above-average rates were also seen in manufacturing (5.4 percent), transport and storage (5.1 percent) and education (5.0 percent). Traditionally, the lowest rates are seen in the accommodation and food services sector. In 2019, the agricultural sector had the lowest rate for the first time at 2.6 percent.
The rise in absenteeism rates as of 2014 has been visible across virtually all sectors. The only exception is the financial services sector, where it dropped to 2.7 percent.

Absenteeism by sector, 2019 (%)
SectorAbsenteeism rate 2019
Health and welfare5.7
Water and waste management5.7
Public sector5.5
Manufacturing5.4
Transport and storage5.1
Education5
Energy supply4.1
Mining and quarrying4.1
Construction4
Renting and other business services3.9
Other services3.8
Trade 3.8
Culture, sports and recreation3.6
Real estate activities3.2
Information and communication3.2
Specialised business services3
Financial services2.7
Accommodation and food services2.7
Agriculture, forestry and fishing2.6

More flu, colds and psychological complaints

Quarterly figures on illness-related absenteeism are calculated on the basis of a survey which is held among employers. However, this survey does not provide any data on which complaints are causing the absenteeism. The Netherlands Working Conditions Survey (NEA), which is jointly conducted by Statistics Netherlands and the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), does provide such data (most recent figures are over 2018).

Out of all employees who stayed at home in 2018, 44.1 percent had flu or cold complaints as the reason for their last recorded absence. This is more than in 2014, when this reason was given by 40.2 percent. Other complaints that were mentioned more frequently in 2018 included psychological, mental exhaustion or burnout complaints: 7.2 percent as against 5.7 percent in 2014.

Complaints during most recent employee absence (%)
Complaints during most recent employee absence20182014
Flu or cold symptoms44.140.2
Abdominal/gastrointestinal problems8.49.6
Psychological problems, anxiety, burnout7.25.7
Back problems5.36.1
Headache4.95.3
Related to hips, legs, knees or feet4.75
Related to neck, shoulders, arms, wrists or hands4.65.4
Fatigue or concentration problems2.52.8
Respiratory problems2.22.7
Cardiovascular problems1.51.4
Pregnancy problems1.41.8
Related to ears or eyes1.21
Related to skin0.60.6
Conflict at work0.60.6
Other complaints1111.9
Source: CBS, TNO

Longest sick leave due to psychological complaints

Employees with psychological complaints have the longest absence. In 2018, the duration of absence among these employees was 59 working days on average during the last recorded absence. Cardiovascular complaints were associated with an absence of 47 days on average. This was 3 working days on average for cases of influenza or colds. Overall, the duration of absence due to all types of complaints was 14 working days.