The French health insurance scheme (Social Security) has published a study on mental health problems in the workplace. The figures for 2016 show a dramatic increase in cases recognised as accidents at work or occupational diseases. Is this due to a better appreciation of psychosocial risks or does it reveal a worsening of conditions in the workplace? Difficult to ascertain with any certainty. What is certain, however, is that employers can no longer consider employee malaise as a private matter that does not concern them.

10,000 cases of psychiatric disorder were recognised as work accidents in 2016.

In 2016, 10,000 cases of psychiatric disorders relating to the workplace were ruled as work accidents. These were situations where stress, disputes within the company, suffering due to organisation of the work or extreme depression have led to what is known as occupational burnout. In each case, a medical certificate attests to the reality of the condition, whilst Social Security establishes whether the workplace is indeed the “underlying determinant”.

In addition, there were around another 10,000 workplace accidents where psychosocial risks were mentioned as one of the underlying causes of the incident. Psychiatric disorders play a role in a total of 3.2% of work accidents.

Occupation disease cases involving psychiatric disorders have increased sevenfold in 5 years.

Psychiatric disorders can also be recognised as occupational diseases. More than 1,100 applications were registered in 2016 compared to just 200 in 2012. To obtain this recognition, the disorder should have produced work incapacity of over 25% and a “direct, underlying” link have been established with that person’s job. In over 50% of cases, the committee (CRRMP) responsible for ruling on such applications renders a positive decision.

The cost is significant: EUR 230m in 2016.

The average duration of work accidents related to psychiatric disorders is 112 days compared to 65 days across all cases. In cases recognised as occupational disease, the average length of sick leave is 400 days. This explains why psychiatric disorders are particularly costly: EUR 230m for the Social Security ‘work accident/occupational disease’ branch in 2016. A cost borne more or less directly by the company. Companies with over 150 staff pay a premium for work accident cover that is adjustable i.e. based on the claims experience for that company or that location. There are a number of negative factors brought about by workplace malaise that have an equally negative impact, such as staff turnover, absenteeism, industrial relations tension, disengagement, decline in productivity, etc. There is no doubt that the quality of life at work must not be seen as just the icing on the cake, or a happy coincidence, but indeed as an asset to be protected.

Read more:

Studies published by the INRS – National Research Institute for Health and Safety at Work (

Studies published by ANACT – National Institute for the Improvement of Conditions in the Workplace (

The white paper on quality of life at work (QVT) (

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