The data from health insurer Swica shows the number of days taken off by Swiss employees for health reasons has risen overall by 20 percent in the last half decade.
But a spokesperson for the company which provides pro-rata sickness indemnity to 30,000 Swiss firms said it was the skyrocketing number of sick days for mental health reasons that was particularly “alarming” given this is the health issue that companies can do most to combat.
“A lot of employees can no longer deal with rising work pressure,” Adrian Wüthrich of Swiss trade union TravailSuisse told the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper, adding that flexible working hours and unpaid overtime were making the situation worse.
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But the Swiss employers' federation said personal issues such as family problems, addiction and the influence of social networks were behind the phenomenon.
Meanwhile, psychiatrist Niklas Baer of Psychiatrie Baselland said doctors “tended to sign people off as sick too quickly and too often”.
“Work can be stressful but in many cases the job is the best therapy,” he said.
Health professionals consulted by the paper also noted some people obtained medical certificates after being fired. Under Swiss law, companies cannot immediately sack people who are on six leave and must keep paying those employees for up to 180 days
Baer of Psychiatrie Baselland said two thirds of employees with mental health problems ended up being fired, with the process usually taking up an average of 22 months.
Mental health issues cost the Swiss economy some 20 billion francs a year.
While information on the problem at individual companies is hard to come by, Swiss state railways firm the SBB says it sees 1,600 cases of sick leave of over three months every year. The SBB has a team of around 20 people trying to get people back to work and says it has a success rate of 70 percent.
Companies must do more to improve their relations with employees with mental health issues, Kurt Mettler of the health management firm SIZ Care told the NZZ am Sonntag.