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Few Covid patients received long-term sick leave benefits, agency says

Covid-related sick leave payments accounted for a small fraction of all such benefit payouts from March-July, Kela says.

 Kelan toimisto Helsingissä, asiakas menossa sisään
Social Insurance Institution Kela signage (file photo). Image: Antti Aimo-Koivisto / Lehtikuva

Despite Covid-19 being a potentially long-term, serious condition, the illness has not caused a significant increase in sick leave benefit payouts, according to the social insurance agency Kela.

While the coronavirus crisis has cost businesses and households dearly in many cases, Kela's head of research, Jenni Blomgren, said pandemic-related benefits have not yet significantly drained the agency's coffers.

"[Covid illnesses] account for a total of approximately 0.1 percent of all sickness benefits paid out by Kela from March to July," Blomgren said.

During that period, Kela paid out a total of 354 million euros in sickness-related benefits, according to the agency.

Other maladies such as mental health and musculoskeletal issues, for example, were behind a much larger share of the benefits paid out.

Various allowances available

Kela also offers benefits to people who have been diagnosed with a communicable disease, if there are suspicions of infection or if they have been exposed.

When those payments are taken into account, the epidemic has had a bigger financial impact on the agency, Blomgren explained.

"If one also includes the benefits granted for infectious disease [cases and exposures] the proportion is just 0.6 percent of the total," she said, but noted that those who've received quarantine instructions should apply for contagious disease benefits, not regular sick leave

"The daily allowances for infectious disease are better for the client, as they are paid from the first day and 100 percent of their normal salary. Sick leave benefits are only around 70 percent," Blomgren said.

Employers should also know their choices

Due to collective bargaining agreements, the employees in some sectors do not need to think that much about specific benefits. Several such agreements guarantee that employers will pay the wages of employees who get Covid, are quarantined or are otherwise affected by the virus.

On the other hand however, employers can also benefit by applying for infectious illness payment compensations rather than ones for sick leave

"Then the employer will receive full salary compensation from Kela," Blomgren said.

Other Covid-related payouts rose

While coronavirus infections have not impacted health-related benefits very much so far, the epidemic has still affected Kela's payouts.

For instance the number of people applying for unemployment or income support clearly rose over the spring and summer, the research chief explained.

"The coronavirus epidemic has affected a broad range of people from across different population groups, not only those who have fallen ill," Blomgren said.

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