Early support model for work ability

The early support model gathers the workplace’s practices and guidelines on work ability management, monitoring and early support. For example, monitoring sickness absences, support for returning to work, and a substance abuse prevention programme are all part of the early support model.

What is an early support model?

All early support measures and practices for work ability are agreed on together with the employer, employees, and occupational health services. The early support model is a co-produced document, which includes these agreed-on guidelines and practices. It includes a description of work ability management and monitoring as well as early support practices. The written model functions as a guideline for supervisory work and should be created at every workplace.

What does the early support model involve?

The early support model usually involves a written description of at least the following practices:

  • Who has been involved in designing the model and how it has been discussed in co-determination
  • Who is responsible for what, i.e., each party’s (company’s, supervisors’, employees’, and occupational health services’) tasks, responsibilities, and division of labour
  • How you identify an employee’s need for early support and what you do after that, i.e., the content and practices of early support measures
  • What tools are available at the workplace (electronic alarm and reporting systems, early support discussion forms, work ability assessment request forms, memorandum templates, checklists, a substance abuse prevention programme, and a referral-to-treatment agreement etc.)
  • A description of the sick leave management system (procedures for submitting notices, who sick leave certificates are submitted to and where they are saved, supplying information to occupational health services, reaction limits for sickness absences, who handles the information and how, confidentiality, support measures for returning to work etc.)
  • How we carry out work ability monitoring, reporting practices (who draws them up, what do we include), analysis of the impacts and continuous improvement of operations.

Video: Description of the early support model process

See the video below (4:09 min.) of the process described in the early support model. Video describes the process especially for supervisors.

Substance abuse prevention programme – part of the early support model

A substance abuse prevention programme is part of your company’s early support model. It describes what you should do in issues related to drugs and alcohol at the workplace. The goal is to prevent problems and encourage conversation. Design the substance abuse prevention programme together with the management, supervisors, employees, and occupational health services.

Describe in your substance abuse prevention programme your company’s attitude towards alcohol and other drug use, smoking or gambling at the workplace. Describe, for example, when someone should interfere, when issues should be addressed, how the referral to treatment will progress, how the situation will be monitored and what the consequences are if the referral-to-treatment agreement is not complied with. It is also important to describe the responsibilities, i.e., who is responsible for which measures and monitoring.

You can use this tool to create a suitable substance abuse programme for your company’s needs: Substance Abuse Programme Tool (hyvatyo.ttl.fi).

The substance abuse prevention programme is an important tool for practical management work. When you have agreed on practices beforehand, there is no need to come up with something on the spur of the moment when faced with an employee’s substance abuse prevention problem. It is also helpful for addressing issues and holding discussions when the employee concerned knows that the same practices apply to everyone.