The statistics in Belgium are worrying, with almost half a million Belgians on sick leave for more than a year, and up to 24% expressing a high probability of being incapacitated for work due to stress in the coming three years. As well as the health and wellbeing impact on employees themselves, there is a knock-on effect on colleagues, who experience higher work pressures and more stress as a consequence of the absence.
Stress related disorders require specialised care, but treatment is all too often fragmented with extended waiting times. That was the starting point for AG to create a voluntary programme for staff that offers proactive, individually tailored assistance and aims to get staff with a stress related condition (e.g. burnout syndrome) fit for active duty again.
Over time there has been a continuing increase in the number of people afflicted with mental disorders such as anxiety. But thanks to programmes like Return to Work, there are positive results to share.
The number of Return to Work programmes has doubled each year. Roughly 70% of completed assistance programmes have proven to be successful. Participating staff members on long-term sick leave for a stress-related disorder were back in the workplace after on average six to eight months. This is a major achievement, as on average 50% of staff members on sick leave due to a mental disorder and who do not have access to such an assistance programme are still not well enough to return to work two years later.
Income protection insurance is a highly valued fringe benefits for staff in Belgium. According to research by Vlerick Business School and AG more than 90% of employees wish that their company would include income protection insurance in their salary package. Whereas today only 18% of the Belgian working population enjoy this benefit of which around a third or around 200,000 are covered by AG.