Many Dutch employees still attend work with symptoms, research shows

Advice from the government has officially said, “In case of complaints, stay at home.” Apparently this advice is necessary, as new research from EenVandaag shows that three out of 10 employees go to work with cold symptoms.

Reports from RIVM show that coronavirus infections are happening second-most commonly in the workplace, after one’s own household. EenVandaag’s research surveyed nearly 500 employers with staff and 8,000 employees and self-employed people.

Not staying home, even with symptoms

Of the employees surveyed, 43% still attend work with mild symptoms, and don’t seek coronavirus testing. It’s also evident that they don’t stay home after returning from a high-risk area or when living with a person with flu-like symptoms.

Many employees feel that they are expected to go to work by their employer, regardless of complaints. Some report that there are not enough people in their workplace who care about the guidelines. According to regulations, the employer is allowed to decide whether someone should come to work with complaints, and 45% of employees say they feel reluctant to stay home when feeling under the weather.

Cough, cold, or corona?

Further, many employees also report that they are able to distinguish for themselves between a common cold and coronavirus. If they have a runny nose or cough, they don’t automatically consider coronavirus.

Others cite work culture as the reason for heading into the office with cold symptoms. “I often have a cold. Colleagues would find it strange if I was not allowed to work now,” says one survey responder.

Although, according to the study, only one out of three of employers actively checks whether staff with health complaints are present in the workplace. Employers fear their companies may not survive if everyone with symptoms stays home. Of the employers surveyed, 71% thinks the guidelines for staying home with minor complaints are unsuitable for their company.

Employers seeking alternate solutions

A third of Dutch employers are considering using their own commercial coronavirus test. The tests cost €100-150 each and some employers say that could be less expensive than paying sick people. Employers are also asking for more government aid to help absorb the cost of wages, as they say they must continue to pay employees even in the event of illness.

Would you attend work with minor symptoms? How is the culture around illness at your workplace? Let us know in the comments below!

Feature Image: You X Ventures/Unsplash

Brin Andrews
Brin is an avid ice cream eater from the US, calling Amsterdam home since early 2019. As a lover of mountains, life below sea level has been a bit of an adjustment, but she manages to stay afloat with long runs, wine, and frequent travel. Incidentally, these are a few of her favourite topics to write about.


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