Teachers taking more sick days than ever before

Summary

Stress and burn-out are taking their toll on the education sector, with teachers absent due to sick leave more often than any time in the past

Demanding schedules

In 2018, Flanders’ education system reached a record high for sick days among teachers. During that year, the average number of days off work due to illness was 16.4. In 2017, the figure was 15.9. Over 12 years, the figure has risen substantially, with 13.3 days off per teacher in 2006.

The rise in figures is due to long-term time off due to stress and burn-out, according to the latest report released by the sector. Some 40% of days missed is due to those factors. Among teachers aged 56-65, the figure is a troubling 60%.

“Psychological factors come more into play year after year,” Marianne Coopman with the teachers’ union COV told De Standaard. “So the percentage of sick days are increasing systematically.”

Measures needed

The union points to extra work and changing measures in the sector – such as more hours of lessons, more personal care needed for pupils and reforms in secondary education – as the reason behind the added stress over the last few years.

“We desperately need to take measures to make a career in teaching more appealing,” said Koen Van Kerkhoven, also of the union. “And certainly for teachers who are reaching the end years of their careers. We need to ensure that they can last until retirement or the teacher shortage will only get worse.”

“Because staff are forced to stay home due to psycho-social reasons, school directors are then having to compensate,” said Flemish education minister Ben Weyts in response to the report. “We must ease the schedules of teachers as well as raise the level of respect for them and directorial staff.”

Information about specific measures that might be put in place to achieve these goals have not yet been released.

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