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Most sick leave in France this year due to Covid, survey finds

Between January and May, almost half of all health-related work absences in France were due to the virus

Covid-related absences reached a peak in April this year, when over half of all sick leave was linked to the virus Pic: Fizkes / Shutterstock

Covid was the leading cause of sick leave for employees (excluding the civil service) in France from January to May this year, a survey published today (September 9) shows. 

In total, 46% of absences were linked to Covid in the first five months of this year. Of these, 12% were related to employees testing positive for Covid and 34% were an indirect result of the virus, caused for example by the need to look after children or vulnerable people. 

Covid-related absences reached a peak in April at 52%.

The survey was carried out by Malakoff Humanis, a non-profit social protection and insurance group, and sampled around 2,000 employees each month from February to June. 

Overall, the number of employees taking at least one period of sick leave from work increased by three percentage points over the period studied, from 10% of employees in January to 13% in May 2021.

After Covid, the main reasons for sick leave were accidents or trauma (21%), and psychological issues (depression, anxiety, stress, burn-out), which altogether accounted for 19%.

Serious illnesses were the cause of 12% of absences. 

A higher proportion of managers took sick leave in the period studied (17%) than non-managers (12%). 

The survey found that 8% of people chose to ignore doctors’ notes prescribing sick leave in the period studied, a drop from 19% in September 2020. 

There has also been an increase in long-term sick leave (more than one month), with 16% of leave deemed long term, compared to 12% in 2020 and 9% in 2019.

A second survey focusing on mental health found that the Covid pandemic has led to a “deterioration in the mental health of employees, who suffer from a general decline in (their) psychological state”.

Four out of 10 employees (41%) feel that the health crisis has had a "negative impact" on their mental health, and nearly one in ten employees (9%) describe their mental health as poor. 

The survey also found that 82% of employees are “satisfied with their work”, while 35% are stressed by it, 24% say they are “at their limits”, and 30% say they are afraid of losing their job.

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