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This blog is about my Comenius experience in Finland

Are sick leaves misused by bosses facing controversy?

NewsPosted by Sylvie Hendrickx Fri, November 25, 2011 21:11:19

EK doctor says overstressed managers should take unpaid time off

People in managerial positions in Finland often seem prone to take sick leave when facing public controversy.

Most recently Maija-Liisa Partanen, Director-General of the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (VALVIRA), went on sick leave in the wake of a controversy over allegations that VALVIRA had failed to discover a number of people working as doctors without actual medical qualifications.

Jan Schugk, head physician at the Confederation of Finnish Industry (EK), sees this is a misuse of the sick leave system. Schugk feels that managers should have a higher threshold for stress than others.

If a person is genuinely under so much stress that he or she is unable to function, Schugk feels that the proper solution is to apply for unpaid leave, and not paid sick leave.

“Naturally the limits of a person’s endurance come at some point, but it would seem that it is too easy to withdraw. We doctors are excessively understanding of these situations.”

The basic requirement for sick leave is that a person should have an illness that is so serious that it prevents him or her from working properly.

“Anger is not an illness. Depression is if it meets the diagnostic criteria. There is no sudden depression. In acute stress reactions the state is easily noticeable by others”, Schugk emphasises.

Schugk has also observed that employees tend to follow the lead of their bosses.

“I get reports almost every week that doctors are granting people sick leave for an acute stress reaction.”

According to Pauli Juutti, director and trainer at the JTO School of Management, learning pressure management and tolerance of stress is a key part of management training.

Juutti says that the best of managers are the ones who are physiologically the most stressed. This involves so-called good stress, when the job is rewarding.

However, he says that when stress becomes excessive, the collapse can be dramatic, particularly for people who get feelings of euphoria from their work.

From: Helsingin Sanomat, dd 24/11/2011