What does the new decree on the reintegration of workers say?

The new Royal Decree on the reintegration of employees on long-term absence came into effect on 1 December 2016. What has changed for you as an employer?

Unlike in previous years, employers are now able to initiate the reintegration process for workers who have been absent for four months or longer due to illness. In addition, drawing up a reintegration plan is now mandatory for employers. Another significant change is the role of the advisory physician from the sickness and disability insurance fund. He or she will be assessing the options of a progressive return to work or the employee’s incapacity to work and will be able to initiate the reintegration process autonomously. Read the case study to find out more.

What is the objective of the new Royal Decree?

With the new decree, the government aims to facilitate the reintegration of employees who are on long-term absence due to illness and who are therefore temporarily or permanently unable to carry out the agreed duties. There are, however, two exceptions:

  • employees who are the victim of an occupational accident;
  • employees who are suffering from an occupational illness.

How to start the reintegration process?

The reintegration process consists of two steps:

  1. the reintegration assessment conducted by the prevention advisor-occupational health physician (PA-OHP)
  2. the reintegration plan drawn up by the employer

Who can initiate the reintegration process?

The reintegration process can be initiated by either of the following three parties:

  • The employee or his/her treating physician, in which case the PA-OHP will notify the employer and the advisory physician.
  • The advisory physician from the sickness and disability insurance fund. The PA-OHP will in that case notify the employer.
  • You, as the employer, on the condition that the employee has been absent for four months or longer, or after having receiving a certificate from the treating physician confirming the employee's permanent incapacity to work. The PA-OHP will notify the advisory physician.

As from 1 January 2017, employees can initiate the reintegration process themselves, irrespective of the start date of the period of incapacity.

Employers can initiate the reintegration process as from:

  • 1 January 2017 for periods of incapacity commencing on or after 1 January 2016
  • 1 January 2018 for periods of incapacity commencing prior to 1 January 2016