stressA new piece of legislation entered into force in Belgium last month that focuses on managing psychosocial risks in the workplace which can for instance lead to burnout and stress.

Starting in September, the law states that companies and organizations operating in Belgium must take specific measures to prevent psychosocial risks, including risk analyses, collective prevention measures and counselling for employees who suffer from the consequences. According to a 2014 Flash Eurobarometer survey, exposure to stress is considered to be the main workplace health and safety risk (indicated by 53% of European workers).

Stress linked to absenteeism

Stress is increasingly recognized as a key reason behind absenteeism at work, contributing to at least half of all work days lost. At an estimated average cost of EUR 900 per day per employee in Belgium, the bill starts to quickly add up.

A study carried out in 2010 by Securex, a major payroll and HR management company in Belgium, found that in that year alone the estimated cost of missed work days due to stress totaled EUR 10.8 billion. This is a considerable amount and the knock-on economic effects are apparent, according to the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA).


Belgium’s new law looks at solutions such as offering the service of a prevention advisor specialized in psychosocial aspects and internal procedures for intervention when employees are suffering from violence, harassment, stress, and burnout.

According to the Belgian Focal Point manager from Belgium’s Federal Public Service for Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue, “the new law seeks to make employers responsible for taking preventative measures focused on limiting psychosocial risks and stress in their workplaces. For example, following an analyses of what psychosocial risks exist in their workplaces, employers are also now obliged to look at how they will respond to them.” He added, “If situations arise, workers can now make a request for psychosocial intervention, rather than filing a complaint like in the past.”

EU OSHA’s Healthy Workplaces Manage Stress campaign gives extra impetus for getting the word out to employers about the issue and to raise awareness among the general public. The campaign provides support to countries and organizations across Europe. They can take advantage of valuable information such as practical tools to directly implement analyses and action plans in their own workplaces, take part in upcoming eventsand seminars on the topic, or even start their own campaign.