“Dis-able bodied” or “dis-able minded”: stakeholders’ return-to-work experiences compared between physical and mental health conditions
SourceDisability and Rehabilitation, 39, 10, (2017), pp. 969-977
23 mei 2016
Article / Letter to editor
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Disability and Rehabilitation
SubjectInstitute for Management Research
PURPOSE: This study aimed to explore if and why the return-to-work (RTW) experiences of various workplace stakeholders in the Netherlands and Denmark differ between physical and mental health conditions, and to understand the consequences of potentially different experiences for the RTW process in both health conditions. METHODS: We studied 21 cases of long-term sickness absence, and held a total of 61 semi-structured interviews with the various actors involved in these cases. RESULTS: Physical cases were seen as ‘‘easy’’ and mental cases as ‘‘difficult’’ to manage, based on the visibility and predictability of health complaints. On this ground, assessing work ability and following required RTW actions were perceived as more urgent in mental than in physical cases. Despite these perceptions, in practice, the assessment of work ability seemed to impair the RTW process in mental cases (but not in physical ones), and the (non-)uptake of RTW actions appeared to have similar results in both mental and physical cases. CONCLUSIONS: With these outcomes, the effectiveness of a differential approach is questioned, and the relevance of a bidirectional dialog on work ability and a phased RTW plan is highlighted, regardless of the absence cause. Our study also demonstrates how policymakers need to strike a balance between obligatory and permissive legislation to better involve workplaces in RTW issues.
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