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Sickness-related absences also on the rise in the mechanical and plant engineering sector

The health insurance companies report a significant increase in sickness-related absences last year. The cause for this is seen in particular in the return to normality in the working world, as pandemic-related protective measures are no longer in place and respiratory infections have therefore increased sharply. In addition to this normalization, sick leave in companies depends on a wide range of factors, including the nature of the job, health management, and soft aspects such as management style and corporate culture.

The VDMA used a survey to obtain a mood picture on this topic, the results of which were presented as part of a virtual exchange of experiences on August 10, 2023.

Sentimentsurvey: presentation of the survey results

Andrea Veerkamp-Walz, Human Resources and Innovation Management Officer at VDMA, first presented the main results of the survey. The data show that the sickness rate in the mechanical and plant engineering sector has risen continuously since 2003. In relation to the previous year’s level of sick leave, 70 percent of the companies surveyed stated that it had risen sharply or slightly.

Two thirds of the companies are planning or already have measures in place to reduce sickness levels. For example, moving breaks, workshops, back training, special offers for shift personnel, mental training and much more. Making working conditions more flexible in general, up to and including the 4-day week, has also reduced sick leave.

Exchange of experience on practical solutions

In the subsequent discussion, other aspects such as the possible increase in mental illnesses were taken up. Participants noted that the pace of transformation in the world of work is increasing and this is triggering feelings of being overwhelmed among some employees.

In addition, the Corona pandemic has led to an increased mixing of professional and private life, which is why some employees hardly separate these areas anymore. It is therefore very important for the company to issue clear behavioral guidelines, for example on availability.

In addition, the implementation of health measures and sickness return interviews were discussed. Health measures often fail to deliver their benefits if management and executives are not behind them and do not support them.

In the course of this, low-threshold offers were successful at some companies, such as individual back training during working hours. This has led to greater acceptance – among both employees and managers.

In the context of sickness return talks, it was emphasized that the initial focus should be on sympathy and the provision of support services. It was emphasized that not every manager is suited for such conversations. One company therefore had good experience with having these talks conducted centrally by the HR department.

Overall, the discussion made it clear that the mechanical and plant engineering sector is aware of the negative consequences of increased sick leave. Holistic measures to reduce sick leave also have a positive impact on other areas – for example, offering active breaks can strengthen cooperation within the company as a whole.


The event was offered by ProduktionNRW. ProduktionNRW is the cluster of mechanical engineering and production technology in North Rhine-Westphalia and is run by VDMA NRW. ProduktionNRW sees itself as a platform to connect, inform and market companies, institutions and networks among each other and along the value chain. Significant parts of the services provided by ProduktionNRW are supported by funds from the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Indus