More and more Spanish workers suffer “burnout”. It’s time to consider it an occupational disease
There are days when we wake up tired. When we get out of bed our body weighs us down and in front of the screen we have the feeling that our head works a few gears less. It may be that we have slept poorly, or that we accumulate fatigue after several days of hard work. But if that feeling of constant exhaustion is prolonged in timefor weeks or months, and is accompanied by negative thoughts about employment, we are likely to suffer from burnout syndrome, also known as burnt out syndrome.
Burnout is characterized by the chronification of stress, and it affects more and more workers around the world. Thus, in 2019 the World Health Organization (WHO) pointed that 10% of professionals had experienced it worldwide, a figure that the human resources company Adecco rises to 40% in 2021both globally and in Spain, in his study ‘Resetting Normal: redefining the new era of work’.
Some data that psychology professionals confirm: “Colleagues who work in public health tell us that more and more people suffer from work-related mental illnesses. And we, within the university service, have also seen an increase in the demand for staff to deal with issues such as anxiety, stress or mood, closely related to the workplace, ”he explains to Xataka Mariela Czechcoordinator of the Psychological Attention Service of the University of Malaga and dean of the Official College of Psychology of Eastern Andalusia.
A problem, therefore, growing. So much so that the WHO itself It has been recognized this 2022 burnout syndrome as an occupational disease by including it in its International Classification of Diseases. A step that Spain has not yet taken, which does not recognize this or any other mental pathology as an occupational disease. Therefore, both unions as psychology professionals, they demand that the Government incorporate it into the Table of occupational diseases of the Social Security to adequately protect affected workers.
Greater protection for the worker
Until now, mental illnesses are considered occupational accidents or pathologies related to work, but not occupational diseases. And, although on paper they may seem the same, the truth is that the differences between them are notable.
In the first two, the worker has to demonstrate that the problem he suffers has been caused by his professional performance, while in the third the law already contemplates that the pathology can occur as a consequence of the job he exercises, that is, qthat exercising this job is a risk factor for the appearance ofso the procedures are much simpler and faster.
“With a work-related illness, as burnout syndrome is now considered, you have to prove that you suffer from it with medical and psychological reports and fight a lot, sometimes even judiciallyto prove it and for it to be recognized as an occupational accident so that you can be discharged” he explains to Xataka embody abascalNational Secretary for the Prevention of Occupational Risks of the Central Independent Trade Union and Civil Servants (CSIF).
“However,” continues Abascal, “if it falls within the framework of occupational diseases, the law already recognizes that there are certain jobs that increase the risk of suffering from a series of pathologies, so if it appears, there is no need to prove so many thingsbecause it is understood that it is intrinsically related to your job position”.
Therefore, the inclusion of burnout syndrome or other mental pathologies such as anxiety or depression in the table of occupational diseases of the Social Security it would speed up procedures and would favor that the problem begin to be treated before.
“If sick leave is achieved on time, the development of more serious pathologies is prevented. Stress, anxiety or insomnia are alarm signals that our body is giving us to stop and start to see what is happening to us. When we maintain them over time and normalize the state of alertness, constant tiredness appears, heaviness in the body and demotivation arises, the feeling of meaninglessness and great dissatisfaction, which can ultimately have serious consequences for our physical and mental health”, explains to Xataka elisabet schiavipsychotherapist of the psychologists web platform smile.
Recognition and prevention
Likewise, inclusion in the table of occupational diseases would imply recognition that there are certain jobs that increase the risk of suffering from a mental illnesssuch as chronic stress, anxiety or depression, so the companies involved would have to take preventive measures to reduce as much as possible the possibility of these pathologies appearing.
“When the table recognizes it, what is known as primary prevention must be done, for which companies have to rethink their management, reinforce human resources and take all the necessary measures to try to prevent the worker from suffering from the disease, in this case, burnout”, explains Abascal.
Recognition of the picture would also put order into the actions carried out in Primary Care with mental health patients and would help make these diseases visible, in such a way that both employees and bosses know what to expect when a partner or they themselves suffer.
Mariela Checa explains that the lack of information about what a mental illness is means that the team leaders and the workers themselves take it as an accident at work, that is, as a fortuitous event for which there is, more or less, an estimated payback period. What is a mistake when talking about mental health, where the deadlines will depend on each person and their situation.
“Sometimes, when we give workshops on mental health at work, some bosses ask what is the deadline for a person with a psychological illness to return to their job.This kind of thinking in institutions does not helpbecause the important thing is that their illness is treated”, explains the coordinator of the Psychological Attention Service of the University of Malaga.
On the other hand, Checa points out that this recognition would also serve for the Administration to provide more resources for mental health, and especially to attend to a demand that psychologists have been making for a long time: that the number of places for these professionals be increased. in Primary Care.
Because another problem, he explains, is that currently mental illnesses are blurred among other conditions because they are not well diagnosed and patients are referred to inappropriate specialists, who treat physical ailments stemming from mental pathology instead of addressing the psychological origin of that discomfort.
“The misdiagnosis has two negative consequences. The main one, which we have a society of people with unresolved mental problems. And the other, the useless economic expense for the Administration of constantly having patients in the health circuit who do not have a solution to what they really have”, explains Checa.
what the law says
The General Social Security Law of Spain states that an accident at work is any bodily injury that the worker suffers on the occasion of or as a consequence of the work carried out for someone else. While occupational disease requires a condition contracted as a result of work, although the standard itself emphasizes later that these pathologies must be caused “by the action of the elements or substances” specified in the table of occupational diseases, such as chemical agents. If we skip that last part, it seems that mental conditions fit the second definition more than the first.
In addition, “the work accident has to be determined at the time, while the occupational disease should be established in the last twelve months, because it is a process,” he explains. Raul Rojaslaw firm partner ECIJA an expert in labor law, which makes it even more strange that mental pathologies have so far only been considered accidents, since conditions such as depression or burnout are, precisely, a processnot something that appears suddenly.
In this sense, Encarna Abascal emphasizes that the difference is also temporary: in an accident it is expected that the person will recover within a certain period, while for an illness coverage is obtained for a longer time. Although Rojas explains that with an accident also permanent disability can be applied for, which would extend worker protection indefinitely. But, again, the procedures and paperwork to obtain it greatly delay the process.
In what there are no differences, according to Rojas, is in the benefits for temporary disability provided by law both in the accident and in occupational disease: 75% of the regulatory base from the day after the sick leave.
hard to prove
Despite all this, psychologists and unions are aware that mental illnesses face a major stumbling block for them to be considered occupational diseases: it is very difficult to prove that a depression or an anxiety disorder has an exclusively occupational origin. In general, these diseases appear due to a sum of factors in which work is just one more. Therefore, for most of them partial withdrawals are granted.
However, burnout syndrome is different. Being considered “chronic stress in the workplace that has not been successfully managed”, according to the WHO definition, is directly and exclusively related to the workplacewhich is why psychologists and unions demand that it be included in the Table of occupational diseases of the Social Security.
“Burnout can be more easily demonstrated precisely because it is the burned-out worker syndrome. Even the WHO has recognized that it is an occupational disease, and has recommended that countries do the same, but Spain has not yet done so. That is why we demand that the Government do it”, says the national secretary for the Prevention of Occupational Risks of the Central Independent Trade Union and Officials (CSIF).
Image | brian trump
There are days when we wake up tired. When we get out of bed our body weighs us down and…
There are days when we wake up tired. When we get out of bed our body weighs us down and…