High sick leave in many companies: cough, runny nose, crown?

Status: 01/08/2022 13:21

Companies are constantly reporting staff shortages due to massive sick leaves – Corona is often a reason. But data from health insurance companies paint a different picture.

Andre Kartschall, rbb

Two weeks ago, Lufthansa announced that it could no longer load passengers’ luggage. They just don’t have enough ground staff to load all the suitcases. Some luggage even had to be transported by truck – with a certain delay.

Lufthansa reported the reason for the breakdown by the high rate of sick leave among ground staff: up to 30 percent of employees were unable to work. On the other hand, the sick leave was “due to corona infection, but also due to overstrain.” Strange though: the corona wave and the overload apparently only affected the ground staff. “For cockpit and cabin flight personnel, the single-digit indicator is much lower.”

When asked, Lufthansa could not explain the difference and admitted: They did not know why the ground staff was on sick leave. After all, the cause of the disease is not entered in the notice of incapacity for work that employers receive. Was it really due to the corona wave affecting the ground staff of all people? Or was it the overload that ground staff complained about on multiple occasions – and also as the reason for last week’s warning strike?

Disease wave beyond Corona

What is really going on with the perceived corona wave that seems to threaten to paralyze entire companies in Germany this summer? Health insurance companies regularly publish data that shows how many people are on sick leave for what reasons: statistics on monthly sick leave.

BKK-DV, the association of professional insurance companies, determined that the wave of diseases is actually spreading over Germany. Cough, runny nose, hoarseness: at first glance, the symptoms resemble a crown. But according to statistics, it is primarily other respiratory diseases that plague the German population. On average, each person insured with BKK was on sick leave in June for 0.3 days due to a respiratory disease, but it is very unusual for this time of year.

“Normal” colds – in the middle of summer

Normally, respiratory diseases did not play a role in May and June, says Dirk Rennert, who has been running statistics for the BKK umbrella organization since 2014: “It’s striking that the number of” normal respiratory diseases “is so high. the number of other respiratory diseases. “Corona, in June, achieved just 0.06 days of incapacity for work, five times less than” normal colds. “Coronation cases also increased, but not to the same extent.

It is not easy to explain why there are so many respiratory diseases today. Rennert does not believe that all cases are in fact unrecognized cases of coronation that have simply been misdiagnosed. There are some arguments against this: for example, diagnoses have been made by doctors who usually order an examination if a crown is suspected. In addition, the phenomenon should have happened sooner – but it is not. It only came in the summer: “Q1 is not so noticeable in terms of respiratory diseases – even compared to 2018 or 2019, that is, before Corona.” In other words: in the spring, sick leave was still at the expected normal level. So why not now?

Rennert cannot give a simple answer either. As a statistician, he doesn’t like making assumptions, but sees possible explanations in the expiration of corona measurements and a change in people’s behavior: “I usually only see a doctor when mental stress is very high. people go to the doctor more often with a cough and runny nose. Even if it is not Corona but another respiratory disease. Then it is more likely to be recognized.

Are diseases “cured”?

The medical statistician Gerd Antes suspects a different effect: after two years of caution, people acted differently. Measures such as the obligation to wear masks have also fallen to a large extent – and this has not only prevented corona infections, but also those ‘respiratory diseases’ that are now spreading.

He thinks the high numbers from the sickness statistics are plausible: “The effect is huge. The obvious explanation is that we used masks to prevent infection from all other respiratory illnesses in winter. That would be the classic catching up effect.”

As evidence, he cites the fact that the number of flu infections has been extremely low since spring 2020. The population was therefore hardly able to produce vaccinations against influenza and other infectious diseases. This is what leads to a large number of “other” respiratory diseases. However, this summer he does not see a corona wave: “Politics, media and science paint a picture of a situation that focuses on the crown. It distorts reality. ”

In fact, in health statistics, other respiratory illnesses are much more common than Corona. And of course, other diseases can also disrupt processes in German companies. Two weeks ago, the S-Bahn Berlin had to completely abandon the exchange of railways for two lines. The message read literally: “Due to the increased number of sick days from the bus companies that have been outsourced to the replacement service, the S46X and S8X lines are not running.” The word “Corona” does not appear in the report.

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