Work absences in Switzerland reach all-time high

Work absences in Switzerland reach all-time high

The number of people taking sick leave and other non-holiday-related absences in Switzerland has risen to a record high, data from the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) and Group Mutuel has revealed. Experts noted that both long and short-term absences from work have increased significantly, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Workers in Switzerland spend two weeks a year absent

Speaking on RTSLa Matinale programme, health management specialist Claire Bauduin from Group Mutuel confirmed that full-time workers in Switzerland now take an average of two weeks off a year due to sick leave and other forms of absence, an all-time high that has been increasing in recent years. 

According to the latest data from the FSO, 69,1 percent of absences in Switzerland in 2022 were because of an illness or accident. This was followed by maternity leave (7,1 percent), national service (3) and an unscheduled cut in working hours (2,8). It is estimated that repeated absences cost Swiss companies and insurance providers 7 billion francs a year in costs and lost revenue.

Bauduin noted that international companies and local Swiss businesses are increasingly having to cope with “loss absences” - sick leave cases lasting between one and three days that are repeated throughout the year. She added that the amount of leave taken due to psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety and addiction, which often last “several months, even several years”, has also shown a marked rise since the COVID pandemic.

Why are cases of sick leave on the rise?

While the FSO did not go into detail as to why cases of sick leave are increasing, RTS speculated that the pandemic has made workers more conscious of their mental health and well-being. Others, such as Unisanté physician Peggy Krief argued that heavy workloads and deteriorating working conditions are the biggest reasons why sick leave requests are rising.

An awareness of how working when sick impacts personal health and company finances has also been in the spotlight in recent months - a study from HES in Bern found that people who work when sick cost companies billions of francs a year by spreading disease and making mistakes. However, the same study also found that a majority in Switzerland would still work while ill.

Both employers and employees need support to tackle rising absences

In all, Baudin argued that Swiss companies need more support as most bosses do not know what to do or how to react when confronted with an increase in sick leave. On the opposite side, she concluded that “we must allow our employees to express the difficulties they encounter in their work and co-construct with them concrete solutions adapted to their needs.”

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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