Work-related illnesses nearly doubled in Sweden

The number of work-related illnesses nearly doubled in Sweden last year, with many of the cases related to Covid-19, according to official figures.

The figures released by the Swedish Work Environment Authority on Monday revealed that the increase was 28 per cent among men and 119 per cent among women, Xinhua news agency reported.

“Fighting the effects of the pandemic is an important gender equality issue,” Minister of Employment Eva Nordmark at a press conference.

“I cannot stress enough that employers must take full responsibility and do whatever is necessary to reduce the spread of infection.”

Sectors where the majority of the workforce are women were overrepresented in the count, Ann Ponton Klevestedt, head of statistics and analysis at the Work Environment Authority, said in a statement.

“Employees in health and care and social services have been particularly vulnerable to infection at work. But we have a general spread of infection and all employers must do their utmost to reduce the spread of infection in their workplaces while waiting for vaccines. No one should have to be infected or ill from their work.”

There were also signs the problem could be accelerating.

Between weeks seven and 53 in 2020, the Work Environment Authority received just over 5,200 reports on potentially unsafe work conditions or environment due to Covid-19.

During the first 10 weeks of this year, more than 9,700 such cases were reported, the vast majority from workplaces in the health and care sectors.

“Many employers do very well, but there is potential to do even more,” Erna Zelmin-Ekenhem, director-general of the Work Environment Authority, said at the press conference.

“It is important to remember that behind the statistics there are people who have been exposed to or risked being killed by a deadly virus.”

While hundreds of thousands of Swedes already work from home due to the pandemic, the Minister of Employment said that more employees should be allowed to do so if possible.

“I have received signals that there are employers who do not enable employees to work from home, although permanent staff say they could do it,” Nordmark said, adding that she will invite representatives of trade unions and employer organisations to discuss further action.