Reintegration of long-term absent employees: what should your approach be?

The guaranteed income policy avoids employees having financial difficulties during long-term absence. But it is also as important that the employer considers their approach to reintegration, and that this is done in at timely way.

Reintegration of long-term absent employees: what should your approach be?

In the labour market, guaranteed income insurance has quickly become a fixed element within the salary package. This is immensely reassuring for employees. If they experience long-term illness, they can of course count on a payment from the health insurance fund. However, this amounts to a maximum of 60% of the capped monthly gross salary (EUR 3,705.73 as of 01/09/2018). Financially speaking, you’re going to feel that fairly quickly. A guaranteed income will (partially) fill that gap, in such cases.

Even so, it is important that this policy is not improperly used for sick or long-term absent employees for whom a resumption of work is a realistic option. If someone is absent for a long period of time, consideration has to be given to the cause. That can be found in the home or at the workplace, or a combination of both. Having a number of long-term absent employees is a sign that a situation or a process appears to be counterproductive for psychological or physical health.

Burnout due to conflict in the workplace accounts for one fifth of the employees who are long-term absent. The question that the employer must ask themselves is clear: How do I take on this conflict when this employee returns to the workplace?

Applying an active reintegration policy

It is also important that the employer realises that the incapacity to work is a spectrum. It isn’t a black or white situation. Just as in a situation in which an employee’s enjoyment of their work can gradually be ruined, the same employee can also, step by step, feel better in themselves where there are sufficient, positive encouragements.

It isn’t surprising that a longer period of absence itself can become too great a barrier for such an employee to overcome. Especially when he or she has had to struggle with psychological problems. Fear, doubt and unfamiliarity can contribute to a sense of uncertainty. Many questions arise: Will I be able to keep up? What will my colleagues say? What does my line manager think about the reason for my absence?

That’s why it is important that the employer consults beforehand with the involved party and also the occupational health physician. That way, insight into the employee’s path to recovery can be gained. There can then be a discussion to see if the employee feels ready to resume work, and how he or she envisions their return to work. The occupational health physician can, in this regard, give a clear view on where and how the work environment can be adjusted.

More than administrative management

Vanbreda Risk & Benefits applies an approach for guaranteed income insurance that goes further than merely managing the administration of these collective policies. We aim to stimulate employers to consciously reflect on their vision and approach regarding incapacity to work.

A first step is designing a plan that assesses exactly which components the employer would like to reimburse. In so doing, a number of questions emerge which obligate the employer to consider the policy on which it will be based. Does the employer want to include measures that will encourage the employee to return to work more quickly, for example? Does the employer think it is more important to put the emphasis on health conditions? Does the employer only want to reimburse the most serious incapacity to work cases? Will there be an internal reintegration policy, or will a reintegration partner be engaged?

The best finance vehicle will also be selected. This way, a plan for incapacity to work only has to be partially insured. The employer can consciously choose to provide income replacement themselves for the first year of incapacity to work, for example.

Moreover, sharing our experience and that of other clients with the employer concerned will quickly reveal exactly what is involved in a thought-through HR policy around the reintegration of long-term absent employees.

Insight and feedback

To complete the circle, Vanbreda Risk & Benefits feeds back at appropriate times regarding claims payments made in the meantime. Every employer also receives feedback about the profile of their insured personnel. Where are the groups at risk located? Which conditions occur most frequently?

If there is a collaboration with a reintegration partner, they can report over the extent to which a reintegration was effective. The dataset which Vanbreda provides can be adjusted by the employer to facilitate prevention.

Our approach to guaranteed income is rather unique. ‘Bespoke’ and an ‘integrated approach’ are key concepts for Vanbreda Risk & Benefits. In the future, an increasing emphasis will be placed on these concepts.

After all, the Royal Decree on Reintegration (01/01/2018) now obligates all employers to begin to encourage reintegration from the fourth month of incapacity to work.

Evelyne Lauwers

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