Changes in work capacity

The employer and the occupational health care service jointly prepare a written description of procedures for work capacity management, monitoring and early support.

An employer is required to monitor the work capacity of employees and, if their work capacity is compromised, provide early support together with the occupational health care service. Procedures and practices for promoting work capacity are proactive functions that stem from the needs of the workplace and are continued throughout an employee’s career.

The purpose of early support is to restore an employee’s work capacity and thereby to prevent disability. Procedures or a model for early support must be agreed upon and discussed at the workplace between employer and employees or their representative.

Early support is provided in cooperation with the occupational health care service. It is crucial to identify the need for support and to provide it sufficiently early. Clear instructions and forms make this easier. For instance, there should be a form available for addressing the issue of declining work capacity with an employee and for holding an occupational health care meeting.

The sickness absence monitoring and management system forms part of the early support procedures. It includes:

  • sickness absence notification practices,
  • submitting of information on the work and the workplace circumstances to the occupational health care service,
  • summaries of absences and how to handle them,
  • planning an employee’s return to work and providing support, and
  • implementation and reporting of work capacity monitoring and assessment of the implementation and its impacts.

What should be included in the early support model?

The early support model describes:

  • when and how the issue of work capacity should be brought up and recorded at the workplace,
  • what the roles and responsibilities of the various parties involved are (employee, supervisor, occupational health care, occupational safety and health officers, shop steward, HR),

If an early-support discussion and measures taken at the workplace are not enough, an occupational health care meeting must be held, involving the employee, his/her supervisor and one or more representatives of the occupational health care service. The purpose of this meeting is to agree on duties and work arrangements for the employee commensurate with his/her work capacity. If necessary, the occupational health care service will refer the employee to treatment, or else he/she will be reassigned to other duties.

Workplaces with more than 20 employees must have a separate procedural description in writing. The contribution of the occupational health care service must be entered in the occupational health care service plan. The occupational health care service submits a report on the work capacity monitoring to the employer.

For workplaces with fewer than 20 employees, the procedures must be entered in the workplace survey report, while the contribution of the occupational health care service must be entered in the occupational health care service plan. The description may also be a separate document.

The early support model requires that supervisors and other parties involved are trained in how to apply the model. It is the employer’s responsibility to monitor and assess the implementation of early support.