Introduction To provide for a fast and safe return-to-work, it is important to take early measures during work incapacity. In Belgium, one of these measures includes the system of gradual work resumption while on sickness benefits. The barriers and possibilities for improvement within this system have barely been examined scientifically. The purpose of the present study is to explore these barriers and facilitators among work-incapacitated employees. Policy recommendations regarding partial return to work will be formulated for this study. When the barriers of gradual work resumption are addressed, the application of the system is expected to be easier and more effective.
Methods A qualitative study is conducted to obtain the experiences of various stakeholders (employees/patients, employers, occupational physicians, social security physicians and general practitioners) with gradual return to work. Discussions and conversations are held in the form of respectively focus group interviews (duration about two hours) and individual interviews (duration about one hour) about barriers and possibilities for improvement within this system. Qualitative thematic analysis will be used to analyse the data.
Results and discussion The current research is still ongoing (expected end date: July 30th, 2017). Therefore, results will be presented later as analyses are still being conducted. Until now, three interviews and one focus group (n=3) have been conducted with employees/patients, one interview and one focus group (n=11) have been conducted with occupational physicians, two interviews have been conducted with social security physicians and one focus group (n=2) has been conducted with general practitioners.
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