The Reform of the Sickness Benefit Scheme (2014)
The reform focused on earlier assessment and better visitation of the sickness benefit recipient to avoid prolonged absence from the labour market while ensuring financial assistance.
The main objective of the reform of the sickness benefit scheme is that persons who are on sick leave should return to the labour market sooner by means of an earlier, and more business-oriented, intervention, and thereby avoid prolonged absence and unemployment. Another central tenet of the reform is that by taking sick leave one does not thereby risk a lack of public support.
The reform of the sickness benefit scheme was implemented in two phases.
The first phase came into force on 1 July 2014. It includes the following elements: The date of the assessment of whether sickness benefits can be prolonged has been brought forward to 22 weeks into the spell of sickness in contrast to 52 weeks under the previous regime. As a result of the sickness benefit reform, persons on sick leave whose sickness benefits are not extended have the possibility of entering into a job clarifying programme by means of an interdisciplinary intervention. In a job clarification programme, the individual on sick leave receives an income (the interdisciplinary rehabilitation programme benefit), which is paid at a lower rate than ordinary sickness benefit. The first phase of the reform also included a new extension clause in the event of life-threatening, serious illness.
The second phase of the reform came into force on 5 January 2015. It includes a significant restructuring of the initiative on sickness benefits. A new model for visitation and monitoring of persons in receipt of sickness benefits has been introduced. This means that persons on sick leave with complex problems who are in need of an interdisciplinary intervention will have their case handled by the municipal rehabilitation team. The second phase of the reform also includes a strengthening of the private enterprise initiative for recipients of sickness benefits. This also introduces the possibility of fast-tracking, whereby businesses and persons on sick leave can request the municipality to undertake an extraordinarily early intervention in sickness benefit cases where the expected period of sick leave is longer than eight weeks. Furthermore, an important element of the reform is that there will be an early and systematic inclusion of the sick person’s doctor wherever the expected period of leave is more than eight weeks.
It is still too early to evaluate the effects of the reform.