Arbo Unie: The recovery from long-term COVID is getting longer. Professor at the University of Groningen: “Providing space for employees to recover at their own pace”

There are fewer and fewer patients with prolonged COVID-19, with the exception of sectors such as healthcare and education. Occupational health and safety provider Arbo Unie sees this, who also notes that people with long-term coronavirus stay sick longer.

Their reintegration is also not going well, according to Arbo Unie, which works with about 1.2 million employees in more than 12,000 organisations.

In the first quarter, the long-term absenteeism rate for patients with COVID-19 decreased by 40 percent in most sectors compared to the previous year. But half of them have been sick for more than a year now. Last year this was still a third of all patients.

Not much is known about the long-term course of the coronavirus

Korn Rollin, occupational physician at Arbo Unie and professor of occupational medicine at the University of Groningen, stresses that much remains unknown about the long-term course of the coronavirus and what is the best way to recover. “Company doctors usually advise sick employees to build their work gradually in time and tasks.”

Rollin knows this doesn’t work for the coronavirus in the long run. The course of the disease is often erratic and the ‘physical and mental condition’ often remains very low. This ensures that “patients find it difficult to work at home, let alone work.” But often “there comes a moment when things quickly improve and people reintegrate fairly quickly”.

Thus, the prolonged coronavirus “requires a great deal of flexibility from employers to give employees room to recover at their own pace.”

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Short absence back to standard

Aside from long-term coronavirus, normal short-term absenteeism has returned to pre-coronavirus levels. At the end of last year, absences were still high, but that was due to the flu wave that has now ended.

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