The Federal Government is taking a number of measures to get more long-term sick people into work. According to a number of local news outlets, there will be a "back-to-work fund" to help people find new jobs who have been laid off for medical reasons.
The fund will be financed by companies that fire people for medical reasons. Companies that manage to keep the long-term sick at work part-time will receive a premium.
In principle, it is prohibited to dismiss an employee because of a long-term illness. However, in certain situations, this is possible – for example with someone who suffers from a severe burnout. In practice, though, some employers appear to use dismissal for medical reasons as a means of cheaply firing people.
In an attempt to boost activity levels, Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke is introducing a number of measures.
Financial packages and coordinators
Employers who dismiss a long-term sick employee because of medical force majeure will have to deposit €1,800 in a so-called "back-to-work fund". This is intended to help long-term sick people back to work after a dismissal. Every long-term sick person who embarks on such a program will receive a package worth at least €1,800.
Companies that enable a part-time job for a long-term sick employee will be rewarded by the federal government with a bonus of €1,000.
Vandenbroucke is also recruiting 20 additional back-to-work coordinators, in addition to the 60 that are already working. They will focus mainly on reintegrating long-term sick people into the labour market.
"It is very important that people who have gone through a period of illness and want to go back to work can actually do so," said Vandenbroucke. "We have seen a number of very promising developments."
- Occupational physicians to contact employees after 4 weeks of sick leave
- Companies must deposit €1,800 per layoff due to long-term illness
In 2019, some 55,000 people returned to work after a long-term illness. This year Vandenbroucke hopes for about 80,000 people. "That is almost half more than before the Covid-19 crisis."
"It is an enormous challenge because there has actually been no policy on this for many years," explained Vandenbroucke.