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2 October 2018

New report on how European countries address the issue of burnout in the workplace

In September, the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) published a report reviewing policies and regulations adopted in Europe to tackle burnout in the workplace.

Among the EU Member States, burnout is currently recognised as an occupational disease in only two countries. In Italy, the National Institute for Insurance against Accidents at Work (Istituto nazionale per l’assicurazione contro gli infortuni sul lavoro, INAIL) includes burnout in its list of occupational diseases. INAIL recognised 128 cases of burnout between 2012 and 2016, out of a total of 1 555 cases that were reported in the same period.

In Latvia, burnout was recognised as an occupational disease by the 1997 law on compulsory social insurance.

In France, the recognition of burnout as a form of work-related stress has been the focus of much debate in recent years. In February 2017, the National Assembly adopted the report of the parliamentary mission set up to examine the issue of burnout and look into its definition and a framework for its recognition as a work-related disease. However, this legislative proposal, as well as another legislative proposal aimed at recognising mental health issues linked with work overload as occupational diseases, were both ultimately rejected in 2018.

In several other countries, such as Belgium, the Netherlands and Bulgaria (only in certain specific sectors such as healthcare and education), there have been concrete discussions as to whether burnout should be regarded as a ‘work-related disease’.

The Eurofound report also explores to what extent the national authorities have put in place measures to prevent burnout. At national level, burnout is addressed under a wide variety of headings. The main policy anchor for burnout is work-related stress, suggesting that burnout is assessed as prolonged exposure to chronic job stressors. In many countries, references are made to the ‘European autonomous framework agreement on work-related stress’, adopted by the European social partners in 2004, and its associated national implementation reports.

In Belgium, the prevention of burnout is addressed through the 1996 law on well-being at work. In 2014, this legislation was updated to reinforce the prevention of psychosocial risks in the workplace, including violence and harassment.

Germany also includes psychological risks as an issue in its Joint German Occupational Safety and Health Strategy (Gemeinsame Deutsche Arbeitsschutzstrategie) and in 2015 introduced a law on prevention that also covers psychological risks.

In France, the emphasis is on prevention rather than recognition as an occupational disease. To that end, a series of actions on health at work, aimed specifically at small and medium-sized enterprises, has been established as a result of collective negotiations between the social partners and other actors in the field.

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