There are some 440,000 people on paid long-term sick leave in Belgium, a figure that does not include independents and public servants.
Social Affairs Minister Frank Vandenbroucke has said that he aims to make reintegration of citizens on long-term sick leave a priority in the next few years.
Explaining his policy orientations in a presentation to the Chamber earlier in the week, he explained that, in order to enable as many persons on long-term sick leave as possible to get back into the job market, he plans to use disability managers to monitor each case individually.
The Belgian government wants to give them “the possibility to participate in society” and, to this end, it plans to strengthen reintegration into the labour market “in consultation with the social partners.”
However, reintegration into the workplace would be voluntary, based on the capabilities of each individual, the socialist minister explained.
The reintegration pathway mapped out in a 2016 law “has not led to the hoped-for changes” so it will need to be evaluated and adapted, the minister said.
At the same time, he wants to “modernise and improve medical assessments of employment disability,” he noted in his presentation.
To persuade other “inactive” persons to join the labour market, “we need to lay out the advantages of work and eliminate the obstacles,” Vandenbroucke said at a commission session.
Among other things, the government is thinking of an online tool that would calculate the financial benefit each citizen would derive from going back out to work.