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Vocational rehabilitation support project

From EPSA - European Public Sector Award

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The City of Helsinki is the largest employer in Finland, employing 40,000 people. Sickness absences have increased in all sectors during recent years and the economic costs and human impact of long-term sickness absences are huge. However, when an employer intervenes in supporting a return to work it can considerably shorten the disability period and speed up the return to work in a cost-efficient manner. Supporting return to work is not only a means of managing sickness absences and extending careers in a meaningful way, but, most importantly, it is a system of managing wellbeing at work, which also improves the employer’s public image.

Securing the municipal workers’ wellbeing at work and ensuring the availability of a skilled workforce and willingness to work is no easy matter, particularly as the working population is ageing. Thus, the Vocational Rehabilitation Support project organised by the Helsinki Occupational Health Centre (OHC) was set up in 2007, with a coherent action strategy to support an early and safe return to work after a long sickness absence.

The strategy is a definitive tool for supervisors, in which the return to work is seen as a long process that has several stages: opening discussion at the start of the absence due to illness, communication during the absence, active preparation for the return to work, actual return to work, and monitoring. Supervisors can acquire the 48-page handbook guide free of charge. This policy has been adopted by all workplaces of the City of Helsinki and will be integrated in its permanent personnel guidelines, obligating all supervisors to apply the guidelines and policy to all workers. The supervisors’ own supervisors will monitor the actual implementation of the established policy in their one-to-one discussions. The supervisors’ training on the implementation of this policy began in the autumn of 2008, and is still in progress. Implementing an action strategy for such a large municipal employer will take several years. The policy and its usability in supervisors’ work were tested in a three-month pilot project, which included 25 supervisors. The results of the usability testing were encouraging: supervisors said that the policy had helped them in managing wellbeing at work in a humanitarian way and enabled the supervisors to feel more in control of their work. Furthermore, having a common policy worked out in advance ensured that the measures were not perceived as a monitoring system.

A large municipal employer must have a clear policy, which is used in a consistent and fair manner with all workers. This ensures that all parties will come to trust that the employer is committed to supporting working capability and wellbeing at work. Such a policy also clarifies the roles of different stakeholders and strengthens the cooperation between them. The results of this project suggest that creating a unified policy for a large public administration is possible.

Award info
Award category: partnership working
Award type: submission
Award year: 2009
Project type
Sector: Public administration, modernisation, institutional affairs, reform
Type of activity: human resource management
Keywords: Return to work, collaboration, leadership, occupational health, vocational training
Short English description: Thus, the Vocational Rehabilitation Support project organised by the Helsinki Occupational Health Centre (OHC) was set up in 2007, with a coherent action strategy to support an early and safe return to work after a long sickness absence
Further information
Organisation: City of Helsinki, Occupational Health Centre
Other applicants:
Homepage:
Level of government: local level
Size of organisation: >100
Number of people involved:
Country: Finland
EU membership: EU member
Language code: en
Start date:
End date:


Vocational rehabilitation support project (60.1715352, 24.9505359)
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