Within the framework of the current policy aimed at the professional reintegration of employees who are unable to work, various measures have been adopted in order to financially sanction, on the one hand, employees who do not actively collaborate in their return to work and, on the other hand, employers who have too many workers on long-term occupational incapacity.

  1. Accountability of employees

Since 1 January 2022, employees with long-term occupational incapacity have been able to make use of the “Return to Work Scheme”, which aims to reintegrate them into a job that corresponds to their possibilities and needs.

The reintegration of an incapacitated employee requires his/her active collaboration. For instance, in the fourth month of his/her incapacity for work, the employee may be invited by the “Back to Work” coordinator of his/her mutuality fund (health insurance fund) for a medical examination to assess his/her remaining work capacities. Also as part of the Back-to-Work programme, the Coordinator will invite the employee for an initial interview.

To encourage employees’ active participation in their professional reintegration, the Royal Decree of 25 September 2022 provides for a financial sanction for employees who do not respond to the requests of the Return to Work Coordinator. The Royal Decree has been in force since 1 January 2023 and applies to employees whose period of primary incapacity began on 1 January 2023 at the earliest.

If the incapacitated employee fails to attend the above-mentioned medical examination or first interview without valid justification, a new date is set by registered letter.

If the incapacitated employee failed to attend the medical examination or the first interview for a second time without valid justification, the daily amount of the benefits paid by his/her mutuality fund will be reduced by 2.5%. This applies from the date set for this examination or interview until the date the employee contacts the consulting doctor to set a new date for a medical examination or the coordinator to set a new date for the first interview.

  1. Accountability of the employer

Every employer in the private sector facing an excessive inflow of employees into occupational incapacity will have to pay a quarterly accountability contribution to the NSSO (Belgian social security authorities). However, this obligation only applies to employers with an average of 50 or more employees.

The proceeds of these contributions are paid by the NSSO into the Social Security Fund of the sector to which the company belongs and are intended to finance preventive measures in the field of health and safety at work and/or measures for the sustainable reintegration of long-term incapacitated workers at the level of the joint committee.

To assess whether the number of employees in occupational incapacity is excessive, a quarterly comparison is made with companies in the same sector (determined by the first 4 digits of the NACE code) and with all companies in the private sector in general.

This comparison is done by averaging the inflow of employees into occupational incapacity in the quarter in question (“quarter Q”) and in each of the three preceding quarters (together, “the reference quarters”) over to the number of total employments in the corresponding quarters of the previous calendar year. The inflow is considered excessive if this average is twice as high as in other companies belonging to the same sector and three times as high as in other companies in the private sector in general. In this case, the contribution is due if at least three workers employed by the employer have entered into occupational incapacity during the reference quarters.

For calculating the ratio, all employees aged between 18 and 54 with at least three years of service in the company are taken into account.

The quarterly accountability contribution amounts to 0.625% of the wage bill declared to the NSSO for the quarter Q-1 and is determined on the basis of the incapacity data provided by the NIHDI (National Institute for Health and Disability Insurance).

The accountability contributions are collected via a debit notice together with the NSSO contributions for the second quarter following quarter Q (Q+2).

If the ratio evolves unfavourably, employers are proactively informed by the NSSO so that they can increase their reintegration efforts for incapacitated workers.

Action point

Remember that if you have a large number of employees in incapacity for work, you may have to pay an accountability contribution to the NSSO.

To avoid paying this contribution, we recommend that you encourage the rapid return to work of disabled employees, possibly through the reintegration process provided for in the Codex on Well-being at Work. If a return to work seems impossible, under certain conditions the procedure for a termination of the employment contract due to force majeure can also be considered.

Newsflash, 12 January 2023

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