Long-term absenteeism due to covid is increasing
Teaching staff are sick more often and longer due to corona than employees in other sectors. In particular, the number of long-term illnesses with lung covid in education is rising. This is evident from an analysis of the Education magazine.
Figures from the Arbo Unie, the largest occupational health and safety service in the country, show a clear increase in long-term absenteeism due to corona in education. The number of days of absence due to 'upper respiratory disease' – where the diagnosis post-covid syndrome*Long covid is now officially called 'post-covid syndrome'. It concerns a range of serious complaints. From chronic fatigue, reduced concentration, forgetfulness and headaches to ringing in the ears, dizziness, palpitations and – perhaps as a result of all this – depression. falls under – rose from 2,7 percent in 2020 to 9,7 percent last year. The national average last year was 7,1 percent. The number of absence reports for the diagnosis of 'post-covid syndrome' is also higher in education, namely 5,4 percent compared to 1,9 percent nationally.
“Just like healthcare, where these figures are also higher, education is a vulnerable sector,” says Astrid van Vonderen, spokesperson for the Arbo Unie. And that is cause for concern: “Due to absenteeism due to illness, the workload of colleagues is increasing, while it is already high due to the shortages. There are no production lines in education that we can shut down for a while, so we have to look closely at the possibilities that do exist to prevent new absenteeism.”
An analysis of annual reports from educational institutions confirms the increase in long-term absenteeism in 2021. For example, at Carmel College, a school board of thirteen secondary schools throughout the Netherlands, absenteeism increased slightly to an average of 5,5 percent. 'The corona pandemic had an impact in 2021. There were more corona infections and therefore sick reports, and there was an increasing number of employees with long-term complaints after a corona infection, resulting in long-term absenteeism.
At Het Perron, a school for practical education, pre-vocational secondary education and secondary vocational education level 2, employees are also sick more often and for longer. The average percentage in 2021 was 8,9. From the annual report: 'In addition to the fact that there are various long-term absenteeism files at Het Perron, it can be concluded that the absence due to (long) covid has a major impact on the average duration of absence and the absenteeism percentage.'
'It now appears that about a sixth of long-term absenteeism is corona-related'
In the annual report, ROC Nijmegen specified the absenteeism figures according to the category 'disease of the respiratory system', which includes (lung) covid. The number of long-term sick in this category increased from 11 in 2020 (8,7 percent) to 20 in 2021 (16,7 percent). 'It now appears that about one sixth of long-term absenteeism is corona-related'. When asked, it appears that progressive absenteeism has meanwhile risen from 4 to 5,8 percent. Spokesperson Lotte Albers of ROC Nijmegen is cautious in concluding that the trend will continue. “We don't always know the reason for calling in sick. In addition, you do not know whether there may be employees who are still experiencing the consequences of covid, but are still back at work, for example because they do not want to let their students and colleagues down. It is therefore difficult to get a complete picture of how many people are still struggling with long-term covid complaints.”
More than 1700 teachers and support staff have joined the hotline 'long covid' of the AOb and FNV reported. These are relatively many young colleagues: a third are between 26 and 40 years old. The AOb pleads this letter to the House of Representatives again for a collective disability scheme and compensation measures for employees with lung covid. “These people have continued to work under difficult circumstances when society asked them to. Now they are at risk of becoming incapacitated for work because of their loyalty. Financial compensation is the only thing the government can do now. The fact that this has not yet been arranged for education is incompatible with the government's duty of care,” responds AObchairman Tamar van Gelder.
“Because of the tight labor market, it is difficult to find good replacements, so we have to be very careful with the people we have,” adds spokesman Albers of ROC Nijmegen. “We can only support additional measures that allow long-term sick people to recover well. If they are given the time to return to work in good health and with a good feeling, society as a whole will benefit.”