The lunch event, hosted by MEPs Marian Harkin and Linda McAvan – in conjunction with the leading European Patient Organisations in the area of Brain, Mind and Pain: European Federation of Neurological Associations, GAMIAN Europe and Pain Alliance Europe, took place on the 19th of February, in the Members Salon of the European Parliament. The event marked the official launch of a research from the Economist Intelligence Unit on the economic and social cost of workplace absenteeism in Europe and had interventions from the European Commission’s Head of Unit for Health, Safety and Hygiene at Work.
The EIU report highlighted the variation in benefits to cover sick leave across Europe and the need for better information-sharing between European countries to help identify best practice. According to the EIU, then, a key role for the European Union is to build systems that allow for comparisons between national systems, which would help national policymakers identify and pursue best practice.
The patients’ perspectives presented by Joop van Griensven (PAE) and Patrick Colemont (GAMIAN) underlined how the social stigma adds on to their invisible diseases and takes over their lives. The lack of understanding and support from their peers, their superiors or the authorities is isolating them from society and the workplace, with significant economic costs for society as a whole.
Linda McAvan supports this view by adding that “people with certain long term conditions such as neurological disorders need support to stay in the labour market when suitable work is available. The EU can facilitate the exchange of best practice both for patients’ organizations and healthcare professionals.”
‘‘The European Commission attaches a great importance to improving health and safety at work in the EU, taking particular account of the challenges imposed by the ageing of the working population and the need to tackle new and emerging risks’, explains Jesus Alvarez, Deputy Head of Unit at the European Commission’s Health, Safety and Hygiene at Work Unit.”
The echoing message sent by MEP Linda McAvan, MEP Marian Harkin and Jesus Alvarez, was that collaboration between the EU institutions, patient organisations and the member states is essential for advancing the existing projects in the field of health and work.