The increase in long-term (>1 month) absenteeism is a major challenge for Belgian companies. Over the last 10 years, long-term absenteeism increased from 3.1% to 5.13%. Consequently, absenteeism has become a key element in the human resource management strategy of many organisations. The aim of this study was to assess factors influencing long-term absenteeism among employees.Methods
A questionnaire was developed by a team of experts in the field of occupational health, to assess factors influencing long-term absenteeism. The questionnaire comprised 28 items covering four main topics: employee characteristics (e.g., age), absenteeism (e.g., absenteeism rate, causes of absenteeism), work-related features (e.g., employment satisfaction, stressors, social support, job control), and lifestyle (e.g., smoking). Employees were invited to fill out the questionnaire online by their employee organisations in Belgium.Results
From January to March 2017, a total of 1913 employees (50.2% male, 49.8% female) filled out the questionnaire. The survey revealed that over the last year, about one out of five of the respondents had been on unscheduled sick leave for at least two weeks. Almost 10% of the respondents considered themselves at risk for sick-leave ≥1 month during the next year. Of these, 53% believed that physical reasons would be the cause for the absence, and 38% cited psychological reasons.Results
The following variables were found to be positively associated (p<0.05) with long-term absenteeism: type of work (physical work), seniority at work, and low social support from family and friends. On the other hand, job satisfaction and a healthy lifestyle were found to be negatively associated (p<0.05) with long-term absenteeism.Discussion
The results of this study present insights into factors associated with the risk of long-term absenteeism. They provide a starting point for actions both at an organisational and individual level targeted at reducing and preventing long-term absenteeism.