EU Report Describes Keys to Optimal and Effective RTW Interventions


The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work released a report designed to provide an up-to-date summary of knowledge regarding vocational rehabilitation and return-to-work (RTW) systems, programmes and interventions.

The review concluded that optimal RTW interventions should include the following factors:

  • Early healthcare interventions
  • Reassurance and encouragement by healthcare professionals during the acute phase of disability
  • Early contact between employer and employee
  • Good communication and collaboration among all stakeholders
  • Multidisciplinary rehabilitation, that is, the application of the biopsychosocial approach, addressing health, individual factors and workplace factors, in situations of long-term sickness absence
  • A combination of clinical interventions and workplace components.

In addition, the report found that effective RTW interventions would be facilitated by:

    • The integration of work outcomes as key measures in primary healthcare
    • The education of healthcare professionals on effective RTW interventions
    • A paradigm shift towards the use of the “fit note,” with relevant guidance and training provided for healthcare professionals
    • The inclusion of work outcomes in health policies, clinical guidelines, research and audits to reinforce the importance of vocational rehabilitation to full health
    • The standardization of disability definitions and assessment systems
    • The establishment of clear systems and strategies for effective communication and cooperation among stakeholders
    • Clearly defined incentives for all stakeholders
    • The integration of vocational rehabilitation into organizational health and well-being strategies, as well as broader government policies on occupational health and employment
    • The education of employers on proactive approaches to RTW interventions
    • The sharing of good workplace practices for and approaches to RTW.

The OHS Insider has many articles, resources and tools on return to work, including: