• Do you think Belgium’s compensation structure for employee sick leave is too generous? If so, what could better compensation involve?
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    In Belgium, the sick day is very loosely regulated, and it is permissible for employees to take practically unlimited leave and retain their position. Studies have shown that the average sick leave taken in Belgium is just shy of twenty days a year, roughly twice the European average and some four times the American average. The policies are most likely at least somewhat exploited, but there is also a legitimate depression epidemic that is gripping that nation.

    There are many proposed solutions, but a comprehensive approach will likely help the most. Counseling and clinical services should be offered on site and should be recommended for individuals taking above-average amounts of sick leave. Additionally, government and corporate caretakers could be used to check on the ill to help rehabilitate and reintroduce them into the workplace. The proposed solution is typically not to remove permissive sick day policies like Belgium's, but to help cure the underlying issues that cause people to use a large number of sick days.

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    Belgium's employee sick leave program allows workers to take a great deal of sick leave, or even unlimited sick leave. One study, reported in "Belgians Take Lots of Sick Leave, And Why Not, They're Depressed" in the Wall Street Journal on January 9, 2009, showed that Belgian government employees in some departments had an average of 35 sick days per year (the national rate was half that). The U.S. average of sick days per year is 4.5, and the European average is 11.3 days. Sick days in Europe cause a loss of 1.3% to GDP (Gross Domestic Product). In Belgium, employers pay for sick leave for 30 days, and then, generally, government insurance pays for as long as the employees need it. While people pay for these benefits through very high taxes, it could be argued that mandated paid sick leave can leave workers less-than-motivated. 

    Some of the reforms mentioned in the Wall Street Journal article include having government workers check on sick employees at home to see how they are. In this way, they can encourage workers who are functional to return to work, or they can encourage people with mental health issues to get the help they need. However, given Belgium's generous sick leave policies, it is likely that high rates of absenteeism will remain a problem unless workers are subject to more rigorous medical exams or unless their pay starts to decline a great deal after a period in which they don't work. 

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