New guidelines published by the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) last week appeared to ruled out sick leave for normal cases of burnout.
Burnout is officially referred to by Swedish doctors as ‘utmattningssyndrom’, which directly translates as ‘fatigue syndrome’, but which should not be confused with ME, or chronic fatigue syndrome. It is one of the largest causes of long-term sick absence in Sweden.
After complaints from members of the public afraid that they would be affected by the clampdown, officials have clarified their position:
“The intention is that people with mild or insignificant stress-related problems should not be put on sick leave in the first instance,” said Jan Larsson, the man behind the new guidelines.
“People who have classic ‘fatigue syndrome’ will of course be put on sick leave, but this will be accompanied by more activity from the healthcare system, so that a treatment programme can be devised more quickly”.
Larsson admitted that the way the guidelines had been formulated left room for misinterpretation. He denied that the new rules were simply a way to save money.
“That is a gross misinterpretation. The ambition is to bring forward better and more targeted sick leave practice,” he said.
Social Insurance Minister Cristina Husmark Pehrsson said the guidelines were one means of getting more people back to work.
“I would be sorry if they were misinterpreted. Nobody thinks that a politician can get involved in how long a doctor gives people sick leave. That is entirely up to individual doctors,” she said.