Health & wellbeing

The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (Työterveyslaitos) highlights a concerning trend of increased sick leave among municipal sector employees in 2022. Regardless of occupation, gender, or age group, sickness absences rose, with the likely cause being the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Kunta10 study conducted by Työterveyslaitos, which has been monitoring sickness absences among employees in the municipal sector since 2000, the average number of sick leave days taken by municipal employees in 2022 was 20.7 days.

This represents an increase of four days compared to the previous year.

While the study does not provide specific reasons for the sickness absences, leading researcher Jenni Ervasti from Työterveyslaitos suggests that the observed increase is likely attributable to absences caused by the COVID-19 virus. This assumption is supported by sickness allowance statistics from the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela), which indicate a rise in sickness absences due to COVID-19-related illnesses in 2022. However, sickness absences related to mental disorders, musculoskeletal disorders, and respiratory diseases remained at similar levels to the previous year.

Among various occupations in the municipal sector, healthcare-related professions experienced the highest average sick leave days in 2022. Early childhood educators, family daycare providers, facility attendants, practical nurses, childcare workers, school assistants, and home aides were absent from work due to their own illnesses for over 25 days on average. In contrast, managers, specialists, financial secretaries, and communication officers had the lowest average sick leave days, ranging from 9 to 11 days.

In terms of relative growth in sick leave days compared to the previous year, park workers, home aides, firefighters and security guards, educational leaders, facility attendants, childcare workers, and early childhood educators showed the most significant increases.

Regarding different age groups, employees under 30 years of age experienced the highest incidence of illnesses, but the differences between age groups did not show significant changes compared to the previous year.

Interestingly, the proportion of employees who did not take any sick leave throughout the year decreased in all municipal professions in 2022. In previous years affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work and reduced contact had increased the number of employees who remained illness-free. However, in 2022, only 16 percent of employees did not take a single sick day, compared to 29 percent in 2021.

The findings underscore the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 situation on sickness absences among municipal sector employees. Occupations with a high level of human interaction, such as healthcare, social work, early childhood education, teaching, and emergency services, showed a higher likelihood of employees taking sick leave, further supporting the connection to COVID-19-related absences.

The overall increase in sickness absences across all professional groups highlights the need for organizations to prioritize employee health and well-being. Employers should consider implementing measures that promote a healthy work environment, including adequate rest and recovery, access to healthcare services, and mental health support. Furthermore, ongoing efforts to mitigate the spread of infectious diseases, such as vaccination campaigns and effective workplace hygiene practices, can help minimize the impact on sick leave rates.

To access detailed information on sickness absences in the municipal sector, including data on specific occupational groups and trends, the updated Kunta10 study results can be found on the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health's Worklife Information Service website.