Did you know that medical assessments can facilitate worker reintegration?

In the reintegration process of an employee on long-term absence due to illness, different roads lead to Rome. In other words, the rather heavy reintegration programme is not the only way to facilitate return to work. Here’s a summary.

Reintegration was already a reality long before the introduction of the Royal Decree in late 2016. During the return-to-work process, a worker on long-term sick leave may undergo different types of assessments. But when are these checks useful or mandatory?

1. Preliminary medical exam before the resumption of work

An employee may, at any time during his/her illness, seek advice from the prevention advisor - occupational health physician (PA-OHP). Is it safe to resume work soon? Does the PA-OHP recommend specific adjustments (e.g. progressive work resumption, adapted work)? The employee will receive an invitation from the occupational health physician within ten working days of submitting his/her request.

This type of screening facilitates an attainable, durable reintegration where all necessary adjustments at work are implemented in time. Since it takes place during the sick leave period, you have the time to implement possible changes to the workplace before the worker resumes work.

The worker will decide whether or not to share the findings of the screening with the employer. The preliminary medical exam prior to the resumption of work is not a ‘medical examination’ in the strict sense of the term, but a consultation without obligation. The findings are therefore not enforceable.

Tip: As an employer you may want to inform your employees that they have the option of this type of exam. This can help avoid the procedure of a reintegration programme. Provided that there is a good relationship between employer and employee (and therefore the willingness to resume work), this can facilitate work resumption.

2. The return-to-work medical exam

The return-to-work medical exam carried out by the PA-OHP is mandatory for employees who have been absent for at least four weeks due to an illness or accident and are subject to medical monitoring. It must take place within ten working days of the resumption of work. You, the employer, need to apply for the screening in an official document sent to your external service for prevention and protection at work.

The PA-OHP who conducts the return-to-work medical exam decides whether or not the employee concerned is able to resume his/her function effectively. In addition, the PA-OHP determines whether (temporary) changes are necessary, such as alternative tasks or an adapted workstation.

3. The reintegration assessment

The reintegration assessment is a medicalexamination by the PA-OHP that is part of a reintegration process. This process can be initiated by a variety of actors: the employer, the insurance fund advisory physician or the employee himself/herself.

The medical check consists of several steps and must be completed within 40 days of receipt of the reintegration request. The PA-OHP can take five possible decisions in the return-to-work context, each with its own consequences.

4. The spontaneous health check

Even before a situation of (long-term) absenteeism occurs, an employee who experiences physical or psychosocial discomfort at work may request a spontaneous health check from the occupational health physician. The PA-OHP then decides whether or not temporary adjustments to the workstation or work content should be made. Consequently, the spontaneous health check does not have reintegration as a goal, but a possible preventive adjustment of the work to ensure that the employee can stay at work and won’t take a sick leave.

It is up to the worker to decide whether to inform his/her employer, to heed the advice or to attend a follow-up consultation.

Is your company successful at reintegration?

Help long-term illness sufferers get back to work faster. Mensura can provide you with assistance with developing a reintegration policy, setting up specific reintegration processes and preventing fade-out by keeping in touch with absent employees. For more information call us on +32 2 549 71 00.