Return to work: How do you get back on track after a long illness?

In partnership with The European Commission
Return to work: How do you get back on track after a long illness?
Copyright euronews
By Aurora Velez
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A European project has developed a method with patients, companies and caregivers for people who want to go back to work and have a long-term illness.

The taboo over working with cancer is being broken down.

In association with patients, companies and caregivers, a European project has developed a programme to help people with long-term illnesses return to or stay in their jobs, if they want to.

Like Sandrine Morizet, patient and bank branch manager

"It's an illness where you can fall into depression very quickly," she says. "But when we know that we are well surrounded and that we have employers who are understanding and who support us, it gives us an extra desire to recover and to move forward."

Sandrine is being treated for breast cancer at the Oscar Lambret Hospital in Lille, France. For her, returning to work is essential to her recovery.

She is participating with her oncologist Laurence Vanlemmens in "I know how", a European pilot project that aims to increase by 15% the number of patients with long-term illnesses who return to work.

Accompanying patients from very early on

A paper and digital booklet is one of the fruits of the project. It contains 13 cards on who does what, useful links, key moments as well as feedback from patients

"There are cards that talk about the announcement like… Should I tell my employer?" explains Vanlemmens. "People can click directly on the useful links. So, for example, they can go to the French social security "Ameli" site to see what a pre-recovery visit is. The aim is to accompany people very early on and to find what is suitable for the patients."

The total budget is €4 million euros of which €2.4 million were provided by the European cohesion policy and the rest by the participating partners.

France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom are participating in the pilot project together with caregivers, cities, companies and hundreds of patient volunteers.

Human resources departments play key role

Sandrine is back at work. Thanks to the contributions of the various participants, the project is drawing up a road map for companies. The document provides information and advice on how to reconcile the needs of the employee with the perspectives of the employer. HR plays a key role.

"You mustn't hesitate to discuss everything, including with the employee," says Arnaud Schwarshaupt, Chief Human Resources Officer at CIC Nord Ouest. "Because in the end, there are fewer taboos than we have in managing this subject. The employee can also be the source of proposals for his or her return to work, and we must not refuse anything, and we must do everything we can to try to get him or her to come back if the employee wants to - once again, if the employee is not involved in his or her return, it's useless."

The triangular framework of doctors, patients and companies is completed with training. Good practices are shared between the partners.

"Still a lot needs to be done also in terms of law, of culture, change of mental ideas about the return to work and what place work has in people's lives," says Isabel Weemaes, Project Manager at I Know How.

'I know how' builds on this: together we go further.

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