Survey Vlerick alarming figures - AG Employee Benefits

Published on 11/02/2019


Survey on incapacity for work in Belgium


In cooperation with AG Insurance, Professor Xavier Baeten from Vlerick Business School collected experiences and expectations about occupational incapacity in Belgium. You can already find the general results of the research here​. Time to dig a little deeper into the research results? Dig along with us.

Through a series of 4 articles, you will get actionable insights gleaned from the research findings. 

This first article exposes the alarming figures about incapacity for work in Belgium:

  • 59% of employees expect to take extended sick leave at some point in their career.
  • 53% have already been off sick from work for more than a month, with one out of three cases due to a mental disorder.​
Fortunately, AG Insurance has developed an innovative return-to-work assistance programme to address this very issue, with proven results.

It is hardly surprising that employees expect to take incapacity leave at some point. 72% of the survey respondents already know someone who has been off on long-term sick leave. In 2017, the threshold of 400,000 extended sick leave cases was reached. An unfortunate record high which has doubled in 10 years. 

In 16% of cases, their sick leave lasted for over a year. Xavier Baeten concluded that occupational incapacity is a pervasive problem. It is an issue in all companies and across all employment categories. Employees in the healthcare and education sectors are the most likely to take incapacity leave, followed by technicians and blue-collar workers, while executives and managers bring up the rear… but still with a risk of 48%.
Why are there so many occupational incapacity cases in Belgium? The National Institute for Illness-Disability insurance (INAMI/RIZIV) attributes this phenomenon to the higher incidence of musculoskeletal and mental disorders. An increasing number of studies have highlighted a link between stress-related conditions and long-term sick leave. Statistics show that 35% of long-term incapacity cases are due to a mental disorder.

AG Insurance’s innovative return-to-work assistance programme to the rescue, with proven results!

AG Insurance also spotted this negative trend in 2017 and came up with an innovative solution: specialised guidance to help get workers with a stress-related condition (such as burnout syndrome) fit for active duty again, via an individually-tailored assistance programme and at no extra cost for AG customers with a corporate-sponsored income protection plan. It takes anywhere from one to a maximum of three months to work out the details, and the average duration of such a programme is less than five months. Immediate access to the assistance and the expert guidance of our partners have proven to be the key ingredients for success.

In just under two years, this ​new approach has exceeded all expectations:

  • 80% of all assistance programmes have been successful. 
  • Staff members who have been on extended sick leave due to a stress-related condition are back at work six to eight months later.
In contrast: without such assistance, 50% of employees on extended incapacity leave for a mental disorder will still not have returned to work two years later.

Interested in the Vlerick research results? Want to find out more about our innovative return-to-work assistance programme? Contact us via the green contact button. We would be happy to personally walk you through the survey results, or look into how we can best use our expertise to support your needs.

In March​ you will receive a new article with more survey results and insights.