The workplace integration management program (betriebliches Eingliederungsmanagement, or BEM) helps people who have been unable to work for a prolonged period return to work. What exactly does the workplace integration management program bring to those affected and the company? Get more information about it in this article.
At a glance
- People who have been sick frequently or for a prolonged period of time are entitled to receive support when they return to the company.
- Employers must offer the workplace integration management program, but participation is voluntary for those affected.
- Its aims include facilitating their ability to work, avoiding new absences and maintaining the working relationship.
- Anyone who has been unable to work for more than six weeks (42 days) in the last twelve months is entitled to it – no matter whether it’s in one go or broken up into shorter periods.
What is a workplace integration management program?
Employees have been entitled to receive support when they return to the company since 2004. This is known as a workplace integration management (WIM) program. The statutory regulations on this are in Book IX of the German social code.
People who have been ill frequently or for a prolonged period of time in many cases cannot easily return to work. This also applies to people who cannot work for a prolonged period due to a disability. The return to the workplace is often most successful when the employer actively supports them in this – for example with flexible working hours, technical aids or with health promoting measures.
What are the advantages and goals of the workplace integration management program?
A satisfying job is an important part of a fulfilled life for most people. The workplace integration management program aims to help people to take part in the world of work again after a prolonged period of being unable to work.
It aims to:
- re-integrate employees into the organization.
- help people to be able to work as much as possible.
- avoid further illness-related absences.
- maintain the working relationship long-term.
This doesn’t just benefit those affected. Through the workplace integration management program, employers retain the valuable knowledge and experience of an employee. By taking part in this program, the affected employees reduce further absences and avoid additional stress for the team.
A successful workplace integration management program can also have a positive effect in other areas, as shown for example by a study carried out by the University of Cologne – instances of people leaving their job due to illness decrease, the working environment improves and employee engagement increases.
Who is entitled to the workplace integration management program?
Whether it is a small family business, a medium-sized enterprise or a large company, every employer is obliged to offer a workplace integration management program when an employee has been unable to work for more than six weeks (42 days) in the preceding twelve months. This period is independent of the calendar year.
Whether the people affected were ill for six weeks at a time or were absent and unable to work for several shorter periods is not important. The reasons for being unable to work are also not important. This means it doesn’t matter whether the health impairment or disability is work-related or not.
How does the workplace integration management program work?
The workplace integration management program is divided into five stages:
- Determine entitlement
- Get in contact and arrange an interview
- Get an understanding of the situation
- Develop, agree and implement measures
- Evaluate and conclude the procedure
The employer must first of all determine whether their employee’s inability to work in the last twelve months has existed for so long that there is an entitlement to the workplace integration management program. So it is important for employers to keep proper documentation of the days on which employees are unable to work. Any preventive and rehabilitation measures undertaken are also to be considered in the calculation.
Get in contact and arrange an interview
If the recorded absences give rise to an entitlement to doing the workplace integration management program, the employer has to offer support. The employee is then free to decide whether they want to take up the offer. The employer should tell those affected who refuse it that they can also decide to do the workplace integration management program at a later date. If an employee repeatedly has absences of six weeks, the employer must offer the workplace integration management program again.
Employers should present the people affected with the offer in writing so that it is documented. The important thing to remember is that taking part is voluntary and personal data remain protected. The goals of the program should also be mentioned. It is a good idea to name someone who can be contacted by telephone.
If an employee takes up the offer of the workplace integration management program, the next step is an initial interview. If they refuse this, the procedure ends at this point.
Important: If there is a body that represents people’s interests in the company such as a works or staff council, they must be told who is taking part in the workplace integration management program. As a rule, the discussion group should be kept small.
The initial interview is thought of as an offer of help and support and has several aims. It is used, among other things:
- to establish trust between those involved.
- to show how the workplace integration management program works.
- to answer any unresolved questions.
- to clarify issues about data protection.
- to confirm that the person agrees to the program.
- to obtain data protection declarations and confidentiality statements from participants.
If the employee does not agree to do the workplace integration management program or consent to the required declarations, the procedure ends. But the people affected can also end the procedure themselves at any time without giving any reasons.
Get an understanding of the situation
If the employee agrees, the employer gathers information as the next step to be able to find suitable measures. To do this they ask for example for qualifications, experience and health performance, but also the employee’s personal goals. At this point the employer can also inquire about causes, limitations or other reasons. The employees can always freely decide what information they disclose.
Develop, agree and implement measures
The employer uses the information gathered to come up with some possible measures together with the employee. This could be in-house support. This can include:
- workplace adjustments
- technical aids
- moving to another workstation
- changing the workload
- more flexible working hours
But support or measures outside the company provided by external service providers is also possible. If at this point there are indications that the person affected might need participation benefits or accompanying assistance, the employer must consult the rehab organizations or – for people with a severe disability – the Integration Office.
If the employer has found suitable measures and reached an agreement with the employee, these are then implemented. But it can be a good idea to start the initial measures before devising the full plan for the workplace integration management program. It is also important to agree specific times and dates. When it comes to implementation, everyone involved should make sure that the relationship remains fair and constructive and one where trust is valued. They should identify and address any difficulties as early as possible. Any corrections needed can then be undertaken quickly.
Evaluate and conclude the procedure
The parties involved should check on the agreed dates whether the intended goals have been reached. To establish this, the employer should ask the employee in particular but also the other participants. If the measures were successful, the workplace integration management program ends. Then the employee is re-integrated into the company. But the workplace integration management program is also considered to be completed if no measures were possible or successful.
Follow-up or adaptation measures may be necessary if the measures are not or only partially effective.
Where can I find more information about the workplace integration management program?
Both employers and employees can find comprehensive information about the workplace integration management program on the internet.
This includes the following:
Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs: Gesundheit am Arbeitsplatz (Health in the workplace)
Federal Ministry for Health: Unternehmen unternehmen Gesundheit (companies take action on health)
- Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales. Betriebliches Eingliederungsmanagement. Aufgerufen am 09.05.2020.
- Bundesministerium für Gesundheit. Unternehmen unternehmen Gesundheit. Aufgerufen am 06.05.2020.
- BAR e.V. Der BEM-Kompass. Aufgerufen am 09.05.2020.
- BKK Dachverband e.V. psyGA. Wiedereinstieg erleichtern. Aufgerufen am 09.07.2020.