Presentation M O31

M O31 (Oral Presentation):
Work disability prevention and integration: don’t forget the employers’ viewpoint!

Presented by: Anna Katharina Mortelmans

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Mortelmans AK1, van Nunen K1,2

  1. Mensura Occupational Health Services, Belgium
  2. Epidemiology and Social Medicine, University of Antwerp, Belgium



Work disability prevention and integration (WDPI) is mainly studied from patient or insurer perspective. We studied employers’ viewpoint. In Belgium, workers need medical certification from curative physicians to ‘call in sick’. Employers compensate the first WD month by full wage pay. Subsequently, WD compensation decreases and is paid by social security.


Aim: to describe employers’ viewpoint on WD onset and WD approach. A 25-questions online survey was distributed in November 2012. 673 surveys were completed mostly by CEO’s or HR-directors (69%). Small (<20 workers: 36%); medium-sized (20-100 workers: 30%); and large companies (>100 workers: 34%) participated.


Main factors perceived to impact workers’ decision to ‘call in sick’ are workers’ private problems (37%); child care problems (26%); lack of work motivation (25%); personal characteristics (23%); and lifestyle habits (20%). Workplace factors such as stress (22%); relations with colleagues (19%), physical job demands (14%); management style (13%); and working conditions (13%) are perceived less important for WD onset. 90% of companies’ WD approach is a ‘sickness reporting policy’. The policy describes: the timeframe to report sick (97%); to who the report has to be made (97%); the methods accepted to ‘call in sick’ (87%) e.g. telephone call (94%) or e-mail (33%). 70% of companies’ WD approach includes medical control services to eliminates unjustified WD. The control physician is applied when the worker’s supervisor suspects abuse (39%); for workers considered as ‘problematic regarding WD’ (17%); according to a certain pattern (e.g. an employee reports sick for the third time) (16%); for every WD spell (11%); randomly (10%); or other reasons (7%). Workplace interventions such as training supervisors to perform WDPI conversations; individual guidance of workers towards work resumption; work accommodation policy; knowledge of financial support to make work place accommodations feasible; and a multidisciplinary WDPI policy are implemented respectively in 27%; 22%; 14%; 8%; and 6% of companies having a WD policy.


Belgian employers in our study perceive workers’ personal problems as the main factors impacting WD onset, and, consequently, focus on individual and repressive interventions to tackle WD.

Schedule Details

Monday September 29
15:45 - 17:15 Afternoon Concurrent Sessions (M O25 - M O37 and Seminar 3)
Session: Return to work process
Room B