Most employees who call in sick will resume their duties within a matter of weeks. However, it is possible that an employee is out of the running for a longer period of time. In that case, employer and employee should both work towards an effective reintegration. The starting point for the reintegration of the sick employee is reintegration into the original function and, if that is not possible, resuming work in another position with the original employer. This is called ‘first track reintegration’. Since 2002 the employer also has the responsibility to pursue reintegration with another employer if it is impossible to reintegrate the sick employee within the own organization. This is called ‘second track reintegration’.

This report is the result of two studies into the effectiveness of second track reintegration. The first study presents an overarching definition of effective reintegration via the second track. The second study describes how actors implement second track reintegration in practice and what problems they encounter during this process. The studies were conducted by a research team of Panteia, De Beleidsonderzoekers and SEO Amsterdam Economics.

In practice, 15% of employers in the Netherlands have reintegrated sick employees via the second track (in the past four years). The larger the organization, the greater the chance that they have used second track reintegration in the past four years. This is in line with expectations, as large organizations will obviously experience more cases of sickness leave. More than one third of employees following a second track programme are re-employed. A little under half of them find re-employment with their former employer and slightly more than half of them find a job with a new employer.

There are several possible reasons for an employer to use a second track programme. Several significant financial incentives have been incorporated in the system that make it in the employer’s interest to seek second track reintegration: the obligation to continue to pay wages, the threat of a wage penalty by Employee Insurance Agency UWV and the WGA premium differentiation, whereby the latter applies to larger employers in particular. According to employers, the main reason to initiate a second track programme is the lack of suitable work at the original employer. Only a small proportion of employers say that they have used the second track programme to prevent a wage penalty. On average about 15% of employers that have initiated a second track programme in the past four years have ever been faced with a wage penalty.