Reintegration aided by VDAB: these measures help employees to return to work adapted to their abilities

During your reintegration process, you don’t only have the external service for prevention and protection at work to turn to. The Flemish Service for Employment and Vocational Training (VDAB) also provides measures to support both employers and employees. Mensura listed these measures for you.

1. Who is eligible for assistance from VDAB?

  • In order for individuals to qualify for VDAB’s reintegration services, they must be ill.  Eligibility does not depend on how long someone has been ill: they may qualify whether they have become ill recently or have had a medical certificate for more than a year.  
  • It is not necessary to have an employment contract.
  • The person in question may not register with VDAB until the health insurance fund’s consulting physician has given their consent.

You can approach VDAB through the health insurance fund’s consulting physician, the company doctor, on your own initiative at a local job centre, by calling the service line (0800 30 700) or online.

2. What support does VDAB provide to promote reintegration back to work or to work adapted to the employee’s abilities?

1. Payment of retraining costs
VDAB can pay for retraining This is done as follows:

  • After the case has been submitted to VDAB the health insurance fund’s consulting physician must consent to the request.  To reach a decision, the physician must weigh up two questions: is the person in question unfit for work at the time of applying for retraining? And is the training programme compatible with the clinical picture or limitations of the person in question?
  • If the physician gives their consent, the employer or person in question (if there is no employment contract) can start the training at the expense of VDAB.   The person in question will retain their medical certificate for the duration of the training programme and until six months after it ends.
  • At a later stage, an advisory committee of the National Institute for Sickness and Invalidity Insurance (RIZIV) will assess the application for retraining.   If they agree, the applicant will receive an extra allowance as an incentive (€5 for each hour of lessons followed, plus € 500 if the applicant completes the course successfully). Please note: these are gross amounts!

2. Guidance in the work place with regard to adapted work
VDAB can play an important role in screening the residual capacity of the employee in question.   To initiate this process, your employee must submit an application to the Occupational Impairment Service (hereinafter ‘DABP’). The occupational disability specialist will decide whether the employee is entitled to an employment support measure. This may, for example, involve adapting the workplace or adapting equipment used at work.

At some point, an occupational disability specialist will visit the workplace to assess which adjustments are necessary.   They may be accompanied by the occupational physician.

Adjustments to the workplace are subject to the following conditions:

  • they are necessary to enable the employee to do their job;
  • they require the employer’s intervention;
  • they are strictly non-commonplace (e.g. a stair lift, a ramp, an adapted company car, an adapted machine…);
  • the employee must remain in service for at least six months after the adjustments have been made

If these conditions are met, VDAB will pay for the installation and purchase of the workplace adjustments.   If the employer buys an adapted model of the required equipment, VDAB will only pay the difference in price between the adapted model and the standard model.

Adjustments to work equipment are subject to the following conditions:

  • they require the employers’ intervention;  
  • They are necessary for the job and will remain the property of the employer.  Important: this concerns equipment that the employer would not or should not normally have to provide for the job (e.g. a standard ergonomic chair);
  • They only concern non-commonplace adjustments (e.g. a larger screen, a braille reader, FM equipment, orthopaedic safety shoes …).

VDAB will pay the supplier of the adjustment work equipment directly.

3. Granting of Flemish Support Allowance (VOP)
VOP may be granted for making adjustments to the timetable or the employee’s range of tasks, or for frequent absences due to a disability, impaired performance, more coaching and support for direct managers …

Employers can apply to the Department of Work and Social Economy for VOP once DABP has determined that the employee is entitled to it.   You can find the conditions for employees applying for VOP on VDAB’s website.

Employees may only apply for VOP if they are employed:

  • in the private sector,  
  • in education,  
  • as a temporary employment agency employee,  
  • in local government (on condition that the employee in question was recruited by a provincial or municipal authority, OCMW or an agency or association that has been privatised after 1/10/2018)  
  • or in a sheltered workplace (on condition that the employee in question was recruited after 1/1/2015 or is a target group employee that has moved on to a job in the regular employment market).  

Government employees or employees following workplace learning may not apply for VOP.

There are two types of VOP:

  • An allowance for an unlimited period (valid for five years). 
    The DABP allocates this allowance in the event of serious, long-term occupational disability. An application to extend the allowance must be submitted 6 months before the end of the current allowance The amount of allowance is: 40% of the reference wage in the first year; 30% of the reference wage in the second year; and 20% of the reference wage from the third year onwards.
  • A temporary allowance (valid for two years).
    The DABP allocates this allowance if the long-term impact of the employee’s occupational disability is not yet certain or if the impact has been assessed as being temporary.   An extension can be applied for after two years. This extension must be applied for 6 months before the expiry date of the current allowance. The allowance amounts to 20% of the reference wage.

In specific and exceptional cases, it is possible to apply for an increase in the allowance, up to a maximum amount of 60% of the employee’s reference wage.   This is possible, for example, if the efficiency loss exceeds 60% of the employee’s reference wage due to a combination of physical and mental health problems.

3. Other measures: travel allowance and use of an interpreter

VDAB may grant an allowance to employees who due to an occupational disability must travel to work:

  • with assistance on public transport;
  • with the help of a motorised vehicle because they can no longer use public transport;
  • with the help of a specialised vehicle (e.g. special bus).

Each year, the person in question may use the services of an interpreter in Flemish sign language, a speech-to-text interpreter or an oral interpreter for a number of hours free of charge.   More specifically, this is 18 hours per year if the person in question is looking for work or for another job, or if they need an interpreter for 10% of their effective working time in order to perform their work better.  If necessary, this time can be increased by 10, 20 or 30%.

Additional questions?

Do you have any more questions or do you want to apply to VDAB?   Call the free number 0800 30 700 or email a contact person at VDAB.