Occupational rehabilitation supports returning to work

Lessons from Losses 1/2013. Every year in Finland, about 50,000 unexpected occupational accidents, accidents happening on the way to or from work or occupational diseases occur to or are sustained by people insured by If’s Statutory Workers’ Compensation Insurance. About 1% of this figure can be classified as serious accidents, the consequences of which are that the workability of the employee is threatened.

The timing of the rehabilitation is a significant factor in the results of rehabilitation and that is why If’s target is to provide support in such a way that the injured or sick employee returns to working life as soon as possible and at the right time. Starting rehabilitation at the right time greatly improves the chances of the employee returning to work immediately after rehabilitation and in the long run it will reduce early retirement.

The continuation of a working career after an accident or illness has occurred is also influenced by both the participation of the injured or sick employee in his/her own rehabilitation process and by the fact that the rehabilitation has progressed smoothly (R.Gould, K. Härkäpää, A. Järvikoski, 1/2012 Finnish Centre for Pensions’ research work).

Rehabilitation, the way it should be

The objective of occupational rehabilitation is to support an injured or sick employee either to stay in working life or to return to working life to a task, which is appropriate taking into consideration the occupational accident or occupational disease that the employee has sustained. In If we take into account at an early stage the threat of an employee’s incapacity to work.

If the injured or sick employee cannot return to his/her old job, then the necessary measures for finding a new occupation must be started as soon as possible after the acute treatment phase. Even though it is not possible to immediately begin concrete rehabilitation measures, guidance discussions between If and the injured or sick employee can commence.

Every injured or sick employee is an individual to whom an own path to working life must be tailor-made. The choice of path will be influenced by the person’s own view of the situation, his/her education and working history, area of competency and knowledge and in certain circumstances even the age and living area must be taken into consideration.

Co-operation is important

The primary objective of rehabilitation is for the injured or sick employee to return to the employment of his/her own employer. That is why co-operation with the injured or sick employee, the employer, the occupational health service and with other various organs is an important part of occupational rehabilitation. If places emphasis on this. However, the co-operation does not always succeed. It is then time to consider other channels to working life.

In If, rehabilitation issues are taken care of by claims handlers and a rehabilitation counsellor who are very familiar with these matters. If’s rehabilitation counsellor will participate, when necessary, in joint meetings in which there will be the employer, the employer’s health care provider and the injured or sick employee.

The operating model has now been used for three years and the results have been good. According to the results of the client satisfaction questionnaire sent to the rehabilitation customers in the spring of 2012, the injured or sick employees were particularly satisfied with the fact that a specialist claims handler, who knew their case, had been appointed to deal with them.

In addition, according to the results of the client questionnaire the employees were also satisfied with the personal guidance and support which they had received from If and with the smooth and flexible way in which matters were handled.

Ulla’s new career

Ulla fell from her bicycle on the way to work and injured her knee. As a result of the accident, Ulla was no longer able to continue her work as a health carer looking after elderly people. At If’s instigation a possible transfer to a new task was negotiated with the employer. The employer’s health care provider organised in regards to this matter a workability negotiation, in which, in addition to the employer and Ulla, If’s rehabilitation counsellor also participated.

During the negotiation it was decided that Ulla would first try to return to own job, but with a reduced workload, because Ulla herself still had a strong view about returning to her own job. However, this course of action was not successful and the result of the next negotiation was that the employer offered Ulla a new trial position in office work. After the trial period it became obvious that Ulla now had a new career in office work.

Ulla became interested in her work tasks and in co-operation If her employer organized a trainee programme in office work so that she would have the possibility to apply on equal footing for a job in that branch of work in the open labour market. Ulla got a new career, which she is interested in and the employer got a committed worker whom they knew to be good, into a new job.

Sirkku Rissanen, Rehabilitation Counsellor