No. 31




First Lessons of Work Capacity Reform

10 June 2015


RiTo No. 31, 2015

In 2014, the fist legislative amendments were adopted in Estonia that will change the current policy of payment of the pension for incapacity for work – starting from 2016, the conditions for payment will be changed, and the requirements of being active will be established for people with partial capacity for work who receive the benefi. The related political process has been controversial, it has brought about demonstrations of disabled people, and a petition and a memorandum were submitted to the parliament.

The author studies the problematics of the work capacity reform in Estonia from the viewpoint of stakeholders and, relying on the concept presented in the work “Return to work stakeholders’ perspectives on work disability” by Young in 2013, brings out fie main stakeholders, without whose contribution it is probably not possible to achieve the aim set for the reform – to increase employment of disabled persons. These groups are employees, employers, owners/administrators of funds that manage the risks of loss of health and work capacity, offerers of treatment and rehabilitation services, and the society more widely through its representative bodies.

Return to or entry into employment by people with health or work capacity loss can be successful only in the case when all abovementioned stakeholders fulfil their roles in the best possible way in this process. Employees who fid themselves in a new situation due to loss of health can be helped effectively only if they are active and willing to apply the work capacity they still have, provided that this does not harm their health or treatment outcome.

Employees with loss of health and work capacity can enter or return to working life when the employer is motivated and suffiiently able to adapt to the renewed needs of the employee and is willing to hire also new employees whose needs and expectations of the work environment and organisation of work are different from those of people with no loss of health. The potential of people with loss of work capacity to act as entrepreneurs and to directly contribute to the creation of jobs must not be underestimated here.

Administrators/owners of funds can support the return to employment by valuing the activeness of the employee, providing early assistance, effectively cooperating with other parties who manage risks, and consistently contributing to prevention. Provision of treatment and rehabilitation services to introduce employees who have a health loss back into working life should take place as a logical and uninterrupted integral chain with no delays or interruptions where the person who needs help is in the focus of the provision of service.

All of the above can take place when there is also a party who observes, analyses, resolves discords, supports, and manages the risks of the parties – this is the expected role of the Government together with the governmental authorities network. The Government can initiate changes and motivate stakeholders to fulfi their role, whether the measures be stick or carrot. All that considered, the Government of a democratic state should also guarantee that the society has an understanding of the necessity of the changes done and approves the fiancial decisions that may postpone expected developments in other areas.

In the author’s view, when planning the reform, the Estonian Government has set out from “the position of one social security fund manager” but has failed to give content to the role that is actually expected of it, the role of a coordinator who can mobilise all important parties to act towards a common goal in practice.

Young, A. E. (2013). Return to work stakeholders’ perspectives on work disability. – Handbook of Work Disability.
Prevention and Management, by Loisel, P. Anema, J. R. 409–23. New York: Springer.

Full article in Estonian