Lots of employees on long-term sick leave? Take timely action!

Companies with too many people on long-term sick leave risk being sanctioned by the government. Organisations are notified two quarters in advance using a traffic signal system. If your organisation has received a formal notice, then we can work out an action plan together.

No country has as many people on long-term sick leave as Belgium. The number of people on long-term sick leave doubled to half a million in the span of 15 years. There is broad consensus on the need for a change, but there is no simple solution. The government therefore wants to encourage people on long-term sick leave, organisations, health insurance funds, and doctors to take more responsibility.

A sanction mechanism has been created for companies with proportionately high numbers of people on long-term sick leave. Around 500 companies have received a formal notice letting them know they are employing too many people on long-term sick leave. As they have notably more staff on long-term sick leave than elsewhere in the sector, they are risking significant fines that could run as high as 0.625% of their total wage bill. That money will be used for actions to improve working conditions.

Which organisations are being targeted?

It concerns companies with 50 employees or more where at least 3 employees have been out of work for at least 12 months in the last 4 quarters and where the number of people on long-term sick leave is 3 times higher than the average in the private sector and twice the average in their own sector. Companies are given two quarters’ notice that they are in danger of exceeding critical thresholds.


But is this a good thing?

“No one can deny that the formal notices have acted as an incentive,” said medical director An De Roeck. “But it would seem like a good idea to add a few extra elements to the mix when considering whether a monetary fine is a good idea or not. For example, which efforts have been made to facilitate the return-to-work process? Which actions have been taken to improve the well-being of employees or to prevent illness?”

An De Roeck believes that without flanking policies, a system of mere sanctioning risks overshooting its goal. “Aside from punishment, encouragement or even reward should be an element in any approach too.” The latter might include grants for prevention or intervention vouchers enabling businesses to deploy multidisciplinary interventions – partnerships between occupational physicians and prevention specialists – in a quicker and more targeted way. A more balanced package of incentives along those lines might have a better shot at effectively curbing the chance of long-term incapacity for work.”

Did you receive a formal notice? Let us know!

Due to privacy reasons, external services are not notified when organisations have too many people on long-term sick leave. Did you receive a formal notice? Please don’t hesitate to contact us. Together, we can develop appropriate actions to reverse the trend: collective reintegration policies, an active absenteeism policy with a focus on employability, targeted prevention measures, and more.