German Federation of Trade UnionsThe longer workers are sick, the greater their risk of being terminated later due to illness. However, the course of covid-19 disease in particular is often unpredictable. Many convalescents struggle for months with breathing, concentration and fatigue problems. In view of the pandemic, the German Trade Union Federation (DGB) is calling for urgent reforms to allow people to return to work after illness.
Workplace integration management: the current situation
If employees are sick for a longer period of time, they are often worried about losing their job in addition to their own health. This is because many employers only see the loss of labor and the associated costs. Sooner or later the dismissal flutters into the house.
The pandemic has now exacerbated these fears: "Employees who have been at the forefront of the fight against the pandemic for months and who do essential work in systemically important occupations are at high risk of contracting Covid-19," explains DGB national board member Anja Piel. Corona infections in particular are often accompanied by prolonged health restrictions.
In order to break the cycle of illness and dismissal, in 2004, at the urging of the DGB and its trade unions, company integration management (BEM) was enshrined in law. As a preventive measure, it is intended to help reduce absenteeism and prevent sick leave.
BEM: problems with the offer, process and implementation
In practice, there is a great deal of confusion when it comes to returning to work after illness: the law leaves it open exactly how companies organize reintegration into their operations.
In addition, there are no sanctions if employers do not offer BEM to their employees. This leads to major inequalities: While it is mainly large companies with vested interests that support their sick workers to return home, the situation looks bleak in many medium and small companies.
The DGB also criticizes the fact that integration management is offered in less than half of all companies. But where it does take place, 70 percent of workers take it. "This shows that even before the pandemic, the need was there," explains Anja Piel. And it is likely to be exacerbated by Corona. Therefore, the legislator must make integration management mandatory for all now at the latest.
Whether employees receive an offer to return to work depends, among other things, on the size of the company. In addition, factors such as a good working atmosphere also determine. Recognition on the part of the superiors about the frequency of BEM offers together. DGB/insight
Clear rules now!
In the wake of the pandemic, the DGB is calling for BEM to be improved so that it is firmly established in all companies. This includes a legal right to BEM when employees return to work after an extended illness. "Failure to use the tool must be punished as a misdemeanor," says Piel.
For small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the DGB calls for more support: they need offers from professional BEM consultants who can accompany the process and lead it to a successful conclusion.
For the BEM procedure itself, the DGB proposes binding quality standards, such as medical expertise in the BEM team, gradual reintegration (Hamburg model) and greater consideration of mental illnesses.
BEM not only as an alibi
Without concrete standards regarding the process and termination of BEM, it can be used by some employers only as a precursor to dismissal due to illness. So after the motto: We have made an effort. In the view of the DGB, this must change urgently: That's why inclusion management must follow defined standards. Do employee representatives need to be involved from start to finish. The BEM may only end when all goal-oriented measures have been exhausted.