The student and youth organisations demand: The livelihood of burnout sufferers must be secured during a sick leave, also without a separate mental health diagnosis

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Work-induced burnout and mental health symptoms are becoming so common that they can almost be referred to as chronic conditions that affect public health and the national economy. The recovery and return to working life after a period of burnout is a long and arduous process. Struggles to secure one’s livelihood further complicate the recovery process. We propose a change to the sickness allowance practices which would safeguard one’s livelihood during a sick leave caused by work-induced burnout.

Hectic workdays, excessive workloads, insecurity about one’s level of competence and equality issues within working life increase work loading and weaken work efficiency and well-being at work. Already prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the situation could be seen in the results of the Quality of work life surveys conducted by Statistics Finland. For example, in 2018, up to 43 per cent of employees felt that their workload was at risk of increasing beyond the level of tolerance. In comparison to the results in 2013, this figure represented an alarming 16 per cent increase.

The pandemic has added to the mix its own loading factors that present challenges, particularly for those already at risk of fatigue. Uncertainty about future job opportunities and reduced recreational outlets due to pandemic restrictions, for example, signify additional loading pressures. According to the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, well-being at work has weakened during 2020 and work-induced burnout has increased, especially among young people.

Kela views work-induced burnout primarily as a problem to be solved within the workplace and, therefore, a diagnosis of work-induced burnout does not currently entitle one to the sickness allowance provided by Kela. Many employers concur with Kela’s way of thinking and do not necessarily pay wages to an employee suffering from burnout during absences, which, in the end, raises the threshold to treat fatigue to the required extent. In order to secure one’s livelihood during a sick leave, work-induced burnout is often classified as other diagnoses such as, for example, mental health problems or mental disorders. Because of the inconsistency in the diagnostics, there is no way to compile any statistics concerning the prevalence of work-induced burnout and its impacts or to monitor any changes in the situation. Since health care professionals are not able to classify work-induced burnout as its own diagnosis, the real reasons for the state of fatigue may never be resolved and the proper methods for supporting the situation are not taken into use.

The student and youth organisations would like to see work-induced burnout treated precisely as fatigue brought on by work and not masked as a mental health problem. The underlying reasons for work-induced burnout should be resolved within the workplace by adapting the individual’s job tasks and working conditions and by fixing problems within the work community, such as those concerning work organisation and management practices. Both levels are vital in terms of promoting future well-being. At the same time, the livelihood of the employee in question must be secured during the period of recovery. A diagnosis of work-induced burnout should, therefore, be sufficient grounds to receive the sickness allowance paid by Kela. When concerns about livelihood are alleviated, the individual can focus fully on recovering their capacity for work. The recovery of work ability also requires changes within the workplace.

‘Assurance that an employee will have a livelihood also during a sick leave facilitates the process of regaining one’s capacity for work. In its spending limits discussion, the government should make a far-reaching resolution to improve working life by changing the sickness allowance policy related to work-induced burnout’, emphasises Veera Nyfors, Chairperson of Akava’s Student Council.

More information

Veera Nyfors,, +358 (0)40 511 9370
Chairperson, Akava’s Student Council

Julia Tuuri,, +358 (0)44 780 0211
President, Finnish Student Sports Federation

Pinja Perholehto,, +358 (0)400 596 521
Chairperson, Social Democratic Youth

Annika Lyytikäinen,, +358 (0)50 312 3037
Chairperson, Christian Democratic Youth of Finland

Eveliina Leskelä,, +358 (0)50 389 7260
Chairperson, Finnish Centre Students

Matias Pajula,, +358 (0)50 575 3347
Chairperson, Youth of the National Coalition Party

Jeremias Nurmela,, +358 (0)44 290 7595
Chairperson, Student Union of National Coalition Party

Frida Sigfrids,, +358 (0)40 591 0874
President, Swedish Youth of Finland

Ville Kurtti,, +358 (0)45 112 9299
Chairperson, Social Democratic Students (SONK)

Jutta Vihonen,, +358 (0)44 753 0581
Chairperson, National Union of Vocational Students in Finland

Markus Kutvonen,, +358 (0)44 544 9106
Chairperson, STTK Students

Emilia Uljas,, +358 (0)50 377 9700
Chair, Union of Upper Secondary School Students

Iiris Hynönen,, +358 (0)50 377 7729
Acting Chairperson, Finnish National Youth Council Allianssi

Anton Hietsilta,, +358 (0)44 777 0561
Chairperson, Union of Local Youth Councils in Finland

Henriikka Mastokangas,, +358 (0)44 977 6356
Chairperson, Finnish National Union for Students (Suomen Opiskelija-Allianssi – OSKU)

Liban Sheikh,, +358 (0)50 501 9721
Chairperson, Left Youth of Finland

Anna Lemström,, +358 (0)45 639 7273
Chairperson, Left Students

Brigita Krasniqi,, +358 (0)45 131 2554
Peppi Seppälä,, +358 (0)40 721 7912
Chairpersons, Green Youth and Students

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