Speed up reintegration with a suitable programme

According to the latest figures, our country has half a million people on sick leave. Work incapacity insurance with associated reintegration support is becoming increasingly common – and it’s effective, too. Up to seven out of ten incapacitated employees return to work after a reintegration programme, says Evelyne Lauwers, Expert Health Care at Vanbreda Risk & Benefits.

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Long-term absence is often a difficult experience for employees, but it also has significant consequences for employers, given the considerable direct and indirect costs it entails. With growing interest being taken in well-being at work and employers under pressure from the current reintegration legislation to come up with a quick response, more and more companies are turning to the insurance market.

Into action after four or five weeks

Using a reintegration programme run by a specialist partner, employers can take action from the fourth or fifth week of absence. This short time frame is extremely important. Reintegration programmes combined with work incapacity insurance can reduce the average time off by three months, according to an analysis conducted by Vanbreda Risk & Benefits of the insurers that offer reintegration programmes through their work incapacity insurance. ‘In some cases, the employee can get back to work up to three times faster,’ says Evelyne Lauwers. ‘One party even stated that 72 percent resume work after six to eight months thanks to reintegration programmes.’

Work incapacity insurance with reintegration support

Employers can offer work incapacity insurance as a fringe benefit and thus provide their employees with a financial safety net that takes a weight off their minds. If this insurance is also accompanied by a reintegration programme, companies can significantly increase their employees’ deployment rate, with all the associated positive consequences. ‘In our role as a service provider, we’re increasingly being asked by companies for help with starting up a reintegration policy,’ says Evelyne Lauwers. ‘Over the past two to three years, there’s been a shift from theory to practice: employers mainly used to be seeking information about the programmes, but they now want to actually invest in them.’

No magic bullet

Some recent reforms have provided added impetus. For example, dismissal due to medical force majeure has been dropped as an end point of the legal reintegration process. Employers now bear more responsibility for reintegration. They are trying to minimise absenteeism by stepping up their prevention efforts. When an employee goes on sick leave, an appropriate reintegration programme is started.

Such a programme follows a fixed pattern, in which the independent external partner first assesses the interest and motivation of the person concerned through an intake interview, explains Evelyne Lauwers. ‘This means that there’s no question about each individual’s freedom of choice, or about the method of dialogue used to determine specific needs.’

A positive evaluation then leads to an exploratory phase with guidance discussions, followed by the crucial connecting phase. In the final step, the employee looks for a suitable solution together with the employer and the occupational health service. ‘The employee can simply return to his or her old job or get an adapted job at the same company. But retraining is also an option, in preparation for a new job, possibly with a different employer. This is because the right working context is indispensable for lasting reintegration,’ concludes Evelyne Lauwers.

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