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Reintegration pathway 2.0: new regulations from October 2022

29 September 2022 Miet Vanhegen Employers

The reintegration pathway for disabled workers will be changing from 1 October 2022. The changes are part of the broader reform plan around dealing with the long-term sick. We are providing you with an overview of the main new features of the reintegration pathway 2.0.

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Reintegration pathway 2.0: new features

1. New information obligation

There will be a new duty to inform, which means that the prevention advisors/occupational doctors (or the nurses assisting them) will have to contact the incapacitated worker as soon as possible to inform them about the possibilities when returning to work, i.e. a pre-employment visit or a reintegration pathway.

2. Also in the case of workplace accidents and occupational diseases

The reintegration pathway can also be initiated under certain conditions in cases of workplace accidents and occupational diseases.

3. Application by employer or employee

The request to start a reintegration pathway can now only be made by two parties, the employer and the employee. The pathway can no longer be initiated by the advisory doctor of the health insurance fund.

4. Simplifying reintegration assessments

There will be a simplification of the reintegration assessments of the prevention advisor-occupational doctor. Instead of five decisions (A,B,C,D,E), the number of decisions of the prevention advisor-occupational doctor in the reintegration assessment is reduced to three decisions (A,B,C):

  • Decision A: the employee is temporarily unfit for the agreed work and adapted or other work is possible.
  • Decision B: the employee is permanently unfit for the agreed work and adapted or other work is possible.
  • Decision C: it is not possible to do a reintegration assessment for medical reasons (for the time being). This means that the reintegration process has ended and can be restarted at the earliest three months after the decision. This includes a greater focus on the importance of work post adjustments and adapted or different work that takes into account the employee's capabilities and health condition.
5. Adjustment of deadlines

Several deadlines have been adjusted, such as the deadline for the reintegration assessment; the deadline for drawing up a reintegration plan or reasoned report and the appeal deadline.

6. Employer's obligations

The employer's obligations in exploring opportunities for adapted or alternative work and preparing a reintegration plan are clarified and strengthened.

7. Collective reintegration policy changes

Some amendments have also been made to the provisions around the collective reintegration policy. It clarifies which elements should be included in the occupational physician's annual evaluation report. From 1 October, the employer must also draw up (and provide to the committee), as part of the annual evaluation of the collective reintegration policy, a document containing anonymised and globalised elements of the reintegration plans and reasoned reports drawn up.

8. Medical force majeure decoupled from reintegration process

The intention is to separate the termination of the employment contract due to medical force majeure from the reintegration process. Therefore, the Reintegration 2.0 is a first step to decouple medical force majeure from reintegration, but the regulations on the termination of the employment contract due to medical force majeure will also have to be adjusted. That adjustment was recently submitted to parliament and has yet to go through the parliamentary procedure. Therefore, the new medical force majeure procedure will not yet come into force on 1 October, but only when this new Article 34 of the Labour Contracts Act comes into force. Until then, the existing rules on medical force majeure continue to apply.

Entry into force and transitional measures

The amendments will come into force on 1 October 2022. No transitional measures are foreseen for ongoing reintegration pathways. This means that from 1 October, the new rules will apply immediately to ongoing reintegration trajectories, as the different stages of the trajectory (reintegration assessment at the prevention advisor-occupational doctor, examination and consultation by employer) do not necessarily change.

What does this mean? For example, for a reintegration request submitted before 1 October but for which the prevention advisor-employee doctor has not yet taken a decision, the prevention advisor-employee doctor must immediately take the new decisions (A, B, C) after 1 October instead of the old decisions (A, B, C, D or E). If the employment doctor's decision was already made and transmitted before 1 October, it remains valid and the employer will have to apply the new deadlines to prepare a plan or report.

Source: RD 11 September 2022 amending the codex on well-being at work as regards the reintegration process for disabled workers (BS 20 September 2022)

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Written by Miet Vanhegen

Juridisch adviseur

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