According to a report by Public Health France released, work-related illnesses have increased significantly over the past decade
However, employees are not reporting these illnesses as work-related, resulting in their healthcare costs being covered by the general Social Security system.
According to a report by Santé Publique France, French employees are reporting an increasing number of work-related illnesses to occupational doctors, but they are not being recognized as such. The report, which covers the period of 2012 to 2018 and is based on feedback from occupational physicians in seven French regions and two overseas departments, highlights a growing silent epidemic.
Reports of work-related illnesses have increased significantly, especially among women, according to occupational physicians. Between 2007 and 2018, the rate of reporting rose from 6.2% to 11.4% for women, and from 4.9% to 7.1% for men.
Musculoskeletal disorders and mental suffering in mind
The reported pathologies include musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), mental health issues, irritations or allergies, and hearing problems. However, it is worth noting that the most commonly reported pathologies are MSDs for men and mental health issues for women.
According to Public Health France, the occurrence of these illnesses is often correlated with age, with older employees being more susceptible to them. This highlights the need for preventive measures to be implemented in companies, and emphasizes the importance of accommodating aging workers by adapting their work as they age.
Workers and managers not affected by the same pathologies
Social categories also have an impact on the prevalence of occupational illnesses. For instance, musculoskeletal disorders are sixteen times more common among workers than executives. Meanwhile, psychological suffering is more prevalent among managers and women, with management practices (45%) and work organization being the main factors at play.
The need to emphasize prevention
Public Health France emphasizes that the prevention approach must be comprehensive and include a psychosocial component. It is important to implement preventive measures in companies to improve work relationships, reduce constraints that leave workers little room for maneuver, and review work organizations to prevent increased workloads. The public body also highlights the need to pay particular attention to the mental health of workers, as company prevention measures tend to focus mainly on physical health, potentially leading to underreporting of existing pathologies.
A dramatic understatement…
Through its surveillance program, Santé Publique France has revealed a significant under-reporting of work-related illnesses, particularly musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). According to the report, almost 75% of MSDs are not recognized as occupational diseases. Public Health France attributes this to several factors such as lack of knowledge about the recognition and compensation process, inadequate diagnostic assessments, and fear of reprisals for a quarter of employees who choose not to report their illnesses.
The significant under-reporting of occupational diseases incurs a substantial cost estimated between one and two billion euros annually, according to reports. The “occupational risks” division of Social Security has to reimburse the “illness” division to cover the expenses of undeclared work-related accidents and diseases. Employees are therefore not receiving the coverage provided for illnesses contracted in the workplace and are instead paying for general medical treatment out of their own pockets. Public Health France states that the cost is most likely underestimated, as indicated by their recent study.