Permanently maintaining the ability to work is of existential importance to workers. In the light of demographic change and an increasingly older workforce, maintaining employability until retirement age is also becoming increasingly important economically. Prevention, rehabilitation and reintegration have long been an integral part of Germany’s statutory social insurance system.
MEPs from the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs recently published a report which highlights the importance of reintegration strategies for workers. In the report, they emphasise that the reintegration of workers after an injury or illness is not only important for those affected. Prevention, reintegration and rehabilitation are also important measures for maintaining jobs, pension schemes and social security systems. Ageing is one of the biggest societal challenges in the EU. This is why strategies are needed to promote active aging, so that people can stay active and gainfully employed until retirement age, or even longer if they wish.
The report also contains specific measures and recommendations for improving the reintegration of workers back into the labour market. The European Parliament has focused on three main aspects of rehabilitation that should be promoted:
- Prevention and early intervention
- Return to work
- Changing attitudes towards the reintegration of workers.
In December 2017, the German Social Insurance contributed to a position paper put forward by the European Social Insurance Platform, which also stressed the importance of strategies for reintegration. In the paper, all ESIP members argue for the promotion of employability strategies for workers throughout their entire working lives and for preventive measures in the national social and health policies of the EU Member States (see article from April 2018 ).
In Germany, for example, it has been mandatory since December 2016 for Germany’s statutory pension schemes to provide prevention services as stipulated in the Flexible Retirement Act. The aim of this act is to make the transition from working life to retirement more flexible and to strengthen prevention and rehabilitation during employment. In addition, as a result of the Act to Strengthen Health Promotion from July 2015, it is mandatory for statutory health insurance funds to expand their prevention services. Since 2008, Germany’s statutory accident insurance has been pursuing the Vision Zero prevention strategy, also highlighted in the own-initiative report. The aim of Vision Zero is to design working and living environments (such as day-care centres, schools and nursing homes) in such a way that nobody is killed or suffers damage as the result of a serious injury or occupational disease.
Through the Act to strengthen health promotion and prevention (Prevention Act), Germany has also improved the basis for cooperation between social security institutions, federal states and local authorities in the areas of prevention and health promotion - for all age groups and in many areas of life.
What happens next?
The report on the reintegration of workers recovering from injury or illness into quality employment (2017/2277(INI)), proposed by Slovakian MEP Jana Žitňanská, has now overcome a crucial hurdle in the parliamentary process. The Members of the European Parliament unanimously adopted the own-initiative report at the start of June and has passed it on to the plenary for final adoption by the European Parliament. The European Parliament is expected to discuss the initiative in a plenary session on 10 September 2018.
Pursuant to the European Treaties, the committees of the European Parliament have the right to draw up an own-initiative report on a subject within their competence and submit this to Parliament for a motion for a resolution.