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Vocational rehabilitation prevents disability

Rehabilitation within the earnings-related pension system means vocational rehabilitation arranged and paid for by authorized pension providers. Its objective is to prevent disability and improve the opportunities for working when a person can no longer continue at his or her former job for health reasons. The intention is that an employee or a self-employed person can continue in work life irrespective of an illness, injury or impairment.

The benefits of vocational rehabilitation

Seen from the employer’s perspective, vocational rehabilitation supports the employer’s need to manage the personnel’s health-related risks and to ensure sufficient manpower. Vocational rehabilitation supports the extension of careers. At the same time, it reduces the pressure to raise earnings-related pension contributions.

Vocational rehabilitation has close links to work life and the rest of society. It is in the interests of both individuals and society to try to reduce the number of disability pensions. Well-functioning cooperation between the workplace, occupational health care and the pension provider is of primary importance here. The early detection of a problem threatening work ability and the rapid implementation of the necessary treatment and rehabilitation enable an increasing number of individuals to return to work life.

The objective of vocational rehabilitation is that the total costs of rehabilitation remain below the corresponding pension expenditure. The Acts on earnings-related pension contain provisions about vocational rehabilitation.

Who is entitled to vocational rehabilitation?

The main criterion for vocational rehabilitation is the threat of a disability pension, which would probably materialize within the next five years without rehabilitative action. Another important criterion is that this threat can be reduced by means of vocational rehabilitation.

The right to vocational rehabilitation requires that the following preconditions are met:

  • The applicant is active in work life.
  • The applicant is unable to work or has a diagnosed medical condition that is likely to lead to a disability pension within the next few years
  • The threat of disability can be postponed or prevented by means of appropriate vocational rehabilitation
  • The applicant’s earnings from work total at least EUR 36,820.43 (the level of 2021) during the five calendar years preceding the application
  • The applicant is currently employed or self-employed or the termination of employment has happened recently
  • The applicant has not reached his or hers retirement age
  • The applicant is not entitled to rehabilitation on the basis of accident insurance or motor liability insurance.

What is vocational rehabilitation?

Rehabilitation within the earnings-related pension system is always vocational, individual and appropriate. The assessment of the need for rehabilitation and the rehabilitation plan are based on the applicant’s overall situation, taking into account, for instance, the applicant’s age, education, work experience and other know-how, as well as the current and predicted state of health.

The key vocational rehabilitation measures are:

  • guidance and counselling;
  • work trials at the person’s own workplace or at some other job;
  • training for work;
  • supplementing occupational skills or training leading to an occupation;
  • support for starting or continuing a business.

Vocational rehabilitation always focuses on an individual. Group rehabilitation or activities maintaining employees’ well-being at work are not supported as vocational rehabilitation.

Close contacts with one’s own workplace are an essential element of rehabilitation. The opportunities for new working arrangements at the workplace are always determined first. If the work community participates in the implementation of rehabilitation, it is more likely that the rehabilitation will be successful.

Vocational rehabilitation pays off financially

The prevention of disability by means of vocational rehabilitation is financially advantageous for all parties. It is in the individual’s interests to be able to continue in work life as long as possible, also in terms of improved security for old age. In terms of income, rehabilitation is a better alternative than a disability pension.

A rehabilitee coming from work life is paid a rehabilitation allowance for the duration of the rehabilitation. The allowance is the projected disability pension plus an increment of 33 per cent. If the employer pays wages for the rehabilitation period, the rehabilitation allowance is paid to the employer. Other alternatives for securing income are a partial rehabilitation allowance, an increment to the cash rehabilitation benefit, or discretionary rehabilitation assistance. The recipient of a cash rehabilitation benefit is entitled to an increment of 33 per cent on the benefit during rehabilitation.

Rehabilitees are reimbursed separately for expenses incurred in rehabilitation, such as travel expenses and study supplies, on the basis of recommendations prepared jointly by the authorized pension providers.

For society, vocational rehabilitation is a principal way of supporting the intactnessand duration of people’s careers, thereby strengthening society’s revenue base. From the perspective of the earnings-related pension sector’s finances, vocational rehabilitation has paid for itself if it helps a rehabilitee to continue in work life on average by at least 18 months.

Division of labour in rehabilitation

The authorized pension providers have the primary responsibility for the vocational rehabilitation of people in work life. In general, the pension provider that manages, or has most recently managed, an individual’s earnings-related pension insurance is responsible for the individual’s vocational rehabilitation.

The Social Insurance Institution (Kela) provides vocational training for people who are not entitled to vocational rehabilitation, such as those who have been outside work life for a long time. Accident insurance and motor liability insurance companies are responsible for rehabilitation when the need for rehabilitation arises from an occupational accident, an occupational disease or a traffic accident. The employment and economic development authorities provide rehabilitation for jobseekers with disabilities. Together with Kela, the health services provide medical rehabilitation that supports vocational rehabilitation.

Thus, many bodies are responsible for rehabilitation. It is therefore important that there are clear rules between the various actors. They ensure that each individual’s access to rehabilitation is as smooth as possible.

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