Figures after six months of reintegration: greater demand fails to lead to more employees returning to work

Since May 2017, the number of applications for reintegration has more than doubled. Yet, findings show that most workers have ended permanently incapacitated. "But that does not mean that employers are not making efforts to help employees with a long-term illness settle back in the workplace," says Marie-Noëlle Schmickler, Physician and Director at Mensura.

Rising number of applications

During the first half of the year, Mensura handled 1366 applications for reintegration processes. That's more than double the figure for the first quarter of 2017, which was 544. "The number of applications has increased because the procedure is now better known," explains Marie-Noëlle Schmickler. 

The employee, the employer, the attending physician and the Belgian National Institute for Disease and Invalidity Insurance (INAMI/RIZIV) all can start a re-integration process. However, employees, mostly, take the initiative (68%), followed by employers (22%).

2 out of 3 applications lead to permanent incapacity for work

Most reintegration processes lead to permanent incapacity for the agreed work, without the option to perform another or adapted form of work at the same employer. In concrete terms, this corresponds to 73% of cases at the end of the first quarter, and 60% for the six-month period.

In 13% of cases, the verdict is also permanent incapacity for the agreed work, but other or modified work is an option. For 10% of the employees, starting a reintegration process was not suitable for medical reasons.

And yet, the number of incapacitated workers is decreasing

However, it seems useful to look at the figures in a wider context. Even before reintegration became mandatory by law, long-term illness sufferers were already receiving guidance when returning to the workplace. Figures from these work resumption surveys show a different trend: across all sectors, the permanent incapacity rate dropped from 19.8% to 5.4% between 2010 and 2016. This strong decline is mainly visible in the construction industry (from 17% in 2015 to 12% in 2016).

The two most common diagnoses leading to incapacity for work relate to musculoskeletal conditions (highest in construction, logistics and trade) and psychological problems (highest in education, healthcare and trade).

Employers facilitate the return of long-term illness sufferers

Marie-Noëlle Schmickler: "The majority of the reintegration processes unfortunately lead to permanent incapacity for work. Yet, it is wrong to conclude that reintegration is not given chances to succeed. The results from the work resumption surveys and the visits prior to work resumption precisely show that employers are making efforts."

This may appear contradictory, but can be explained by the complexity of the issue. "If the employer and the employee believe that resuming work is feasible, they will usually opt for a work resumption survey. Mainly the more complex cases are dealt with through the reintegration process. However, psychosocial factors such as conflicts may have to be considered. Or the fact that an employee may feels that certain physical work is no longer feasible."

Complexity requires creativity

"Work resumption surveys seem more informal and attainable. They are the ideal pathway for processes which clearly show how the work can be resumed. In the more complex reintegration processes, however, being creative when looking for alternatives to permanent incapacity for work remains crucial."

Turn reintegration into a success story

Mensura will be at your side to help you facilitate the successful reintegration of long-term illness sufferers in the workplace. We will assist you in developing your policies, for specific reintegration pathways and to prevent fade out by keeping in touch with the employee. E-mail us your question at health@mensura.be.