Sick leave continues to fall

The average duration of sick leave in Austria continued to fall in 1998, thereby continuing the downward trend evident since the beginning of the 1990s. The total number of days taken off due to sick leave also decreased.

Preliminary data for 1998 indicate that the average number of days of sick leave taken by Austrian workers was 13.2, the same as the confirmed figure for 1997. In 1996, average duration was 14 days. Over the longer term, the gradual decline in the duration of sick leave appears to be continuing. Peaks were recorded in 1957 with 17.6 days and 1980 with 17.4. A more recent peak was 15.3 days during the period 1989 to 1991 (AT9802170N). The data include all recipients of wages and salaries but exclude civil servants and most apprentices.

Final data for 1997 reveal that of 2.85 million periods of sick leave, 56% lasted for a week or less, 25% for up to two weeks and 19% for more than two weeks. The volume of days taken off for sick leave was 35.5 million, down from 37.6 million in 1996 and 41.1 million in 1992. Owing to an influenza epidemic in February, 1999 is not likely to show a further reduction in sick days.

The trade unions have been attributing the decline in sick leave to increasing pressure on employees. They claim that, with conditions in the labour market getting harsher, employees feel obliged to show up at work even if they are ill. Employers, on the other hand, feel that sick leave in Austria was always disproportionately high by international comparison.

During the recent influenza epidemic, the school authorities complained about parents preferring to send sick children to school instead of taking care leave, as they would be entitled to.

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