Your workplace has early support practices for you

Every workplace must have agreed early support practices. It means that if your supervisor is concerned about your work ability, they will discuss the issue with you. Agree together how your workplace can support the maintenance of your work ability. An early support discussion is a good way to do this.

What are early support activities?

Everyone gets ill from time to time and that gives the employee the right to be absent from workOur overall work ability also varies during our careers. This is completely normal. The goal of early support activities is to support your work ability and prevent temporary or permanent disability. At the same time, it will support your livelihood when you can return to work smoothly from absence and continue in your work as long as possible, hopefully until your retirement age. There are several ways to do this. Early support activities are described in the workplace’s early support model. It can go by different names in different companies. 

Observe tacit signals in yourself

You can observe so-called tacit signals in yourself, which indicate that everything is not fine. They are small signs that begin to show well before proper symptoms or issues. These same small signs can be observed in you by your family member, supervisor, co-worker, or customer. You can also identify tacit signals in your colleague’s behaviour. You can address this with your colleague and ask them if everything is ok.

You, your family members, your supervisor or your co-workers can notice that 

  • you have difficulty concentrating and make more careless mistakes 
  • you have difficulty interacting  
  • you have difficulty learning new things  
  • you have difficulty remembering or understanding things   
  • you struggle to get your work done within normal working hours  
  • you struggle to meet your deadlines and keep your promises  
  • your work motivation has weakened  
  • you experience unusual fatigue after a workday  
  • you neglect to take care of yourself.

Your supervisor can suggest to you an early support discussion if they have noticed any changes in your behaviour and your way of working. You yourself might be worried about the situation. You can bring the matter up with your supervisor. The goal of an early support discussion is to find solutions to ease your situation together – already at an early stage. The earlier you raise your concerns in your shared discussions, the better you can prevent them from becoming an issue that impacts your work, your income and perhaps the rest of your life.

What happens in an early support discussion?

Your supervisor may contact you or you may agree together on the need for an early support discussion, its date and time and its topic. The supervisor will reserve a quiet and private space for the discussion 

When you start the discussion, your supervisor will review what you will discuss and what the goal of the discussion is. Your mutual goal is to get things to go smoothly in the future. Explain your view of the situation and what the solutions could be. 

Agree together  

  • what measures should be taken at the workplace   
  • how to explain your situation and work arrangements to other members of the work community 
  • what you both will do after the discussion and how you will monitor what you have agreed on.

It is your supervisor’s job to support you in the changes made at the workplace. If necessary, they can make decisions on, for example, work accommodation measures supporting the return to work, working hours solutions or work rotation. Your supervisor will write down the key points of the discussion and especially the solutions, practices, and monitoring that you have agreed on together.

Sometimes, one discussion is not enough. In this case it is important to continue the discussion and arrange a new meeting. In this next meeting, you can already discuss on solutions.

Your situation may also be such that your challenges are outside of work but affect your work. In that case, it worth discussing on how your situation could be taken into account at your work so that you can get over the most difficult stage. Sometimes just a discussion with your supervisor can be helpful. If you have a confidential relationship with your supervisor, it can be important for you that your supervisor knows your situation and that you can agree on flexible work arrangements and other measures.

If you fall ill

Falling ill does not always mean you have to be absent from work. It can also be possible or even beneficial for your recovery to continue working. Research shows that in some illnesses, continuing to work within one’s own resources supports recovery. In a situation like that, your supervisor can carry out at the workplace measures that you have agreed on, which support your possibilities to work. These can be, for example, the possibility to use flexible working hours, work remotely or get an assistive device for work. This can support your recovery and ability to continue at work.

According to law, your employer is obligated to report to occupational health services when you have been absent from work altogether 30 days during a year due to illness. The purpose of the notification obligation is to ensure that everything necessary is done to support your work ability. Read more about the legal requirements for reacting to absences due to illness.

Take a look below at the options available for supporting your work ability.

If you fall ill and have to take a lengthy sick leave, your supervisor can stay in touch with you. At the beginning of your sick leave your supervisor will agree with you how and how often you will contact one another. They will want to hear how you are doing and to let you know what is going on at work. This means that your supervisor values you and your work input and wishes to support your return to work.

Also, the occupational health services’ representative, usually an occupational health nurse, may contact you. It is sensible especially at the beginning of a long sick leave or if you suffer from burnout or depression. Your supervisor can agree on the occupational health services’ participation in the communication when your absence starts. This will guarantee you the best support possible.

When you regularly discuss things with your supervisor or occupational health representative, it will also feel comfortable to discuss your return to work. Bring it up for discussion well before your sick leave ends. Together, plan how your work needs to be accommodated and what other support measures may be needed.

Your supervisor may consider it to be useful to ask the occupational health services for an assessment of your work ability if it has weakened due to your state of health. You need to request a work ability assessment together in writing on a separate form that is available at your workplace or your occupational health services. On the form, write down with your supervisor:

  1. the situation or events that cause you concern  
  2. the issues that you have discussed  
  3. your view of the situation.

If your sick leave is long, Kela will send you a letter and ask you to send the occupational health physician’s statement on your work ability at the latest when the sickness allowance has been paid for 90 sickness allowance days.

Your occupational health physician will carry out a comprehensive assessment of your work ability and state of health impacting it. Sometimes the assessment can be completed quickly, but sometimes opinions from specialised physicians and other professionals are required, in which case it will take longer.

Your supervisor will be given information on your health with your permission only. Your supervisor will receive the work ability assessment in any case. The occupational health services’ activities include discussing the results of the work ability assessment together with you and your supervisor at the work ability or occupational health negotiations.

Work ability or occupational health negotiations involve discussing with your supervisor and the occupational health representative your work ability and functional capacity in relation to the demands of your job. You can bring in a support person, such as a shop steward or OHS representative.

The discussion can be easier if you have the work ability assessment at your disposal. The assessment will help you understand your situation and consider the options that are best suited to your work ability and state of health. Of course, you can also arrange a work ability negotiation without the work ability assessment.

Your supervisor will prepare for the work ability negotiation by thinking about how your work could be accommodated and which other support measures could be carried out at the workplace to help you cope at work. Evaluate them together and come up with new ones.

Your supervisor can support your work ability by 

  • accommodating your work and work environment temporarily or permanently to suit your health  
  • acquiring assistive devices or suitable tools for performing the work  
  • arranging flexible working hours for you  
  • supporting a work trial  
  • evaluating together with you and the occupational health services whether you could receive partial sickness allowance and take on alternative work  
  • evaluating your vocational and other rehabilitation options together with you and the occupational health services

Despite the support measures, everyone is not always able to return to their former duties. If this happens to you, keep an open mind, and ask yourself whether you are ready to work for your employee in a new team or department, or whether the best option for you is to change to a new profession. Consider your situation from many angles and think about what the consequences would be for you and your income if you are not able to continue at your workplace or in working life.

Work accommodation means measures at the workplace that help match the work with your altered work ability and functional capacity. Work accommodation is one of the most important measures with which your employer supports your ability to continue at work or to return after a long absence due to illness.

Your supervisor can accommodate your work temporarily at first. Temporary work accommodation is sensible when you are returning to work as a convalescent or when you and your supervisor are not sure how you will cope at work. This allows you to recover while doing your work. If you have a permanent injury or disability, your supervisor will accommodate your work permanently from the very start. Discuss together which tasks you can do and which you can’t and how you could accommodate them.

Your supervisor can accommodate your work, for example. 

  • by restricting your tasks so that you can focus only on one or more specific tasks  
  • by dividing your tasks into smaller parts  
  • by adjusting your targets or scheduling your work to be less stressful  
  • by appointing you a work partner or support person  
  • by quieting down the work environment so that you can focus on work without continuous interruptions  
  • by organising your working hours: regular or shortened working hours, avoiding overtime, transferring from evening or night shifts to daytime work  
  • by encouraging flexible work, i.e. the possibility to do remote work and dividing up vacation days  
  • by promoting the development of your competence  
  • by ensuring that the work environment is accessible  
  • by looking for alternatives to commuting 
  • by acquiring for you assistive devices or suitable tools for working.   

Together with the occupational health services, you can assess the need for partial sickness allowance or an occupational health service work trial to support your return to work.

Partial sickness allowance is the most common measure for supporting returning to work. Returning to part-time work is always voluntary for you and your employer.

You can receive partial sickness allowance when

  1. you are still unable to work due to your illness, but, based on a physician’s assessment, you can return to work part-time without your recovery being jeopardised  
  2. your working hours are reduced by 40–60 per cent  
  3. your part-time work lasts at least 12 weekdays and no more than 120 weekdays, consecutively

The aim of the arrangement is for you to be able to then transfer to full-time work. When a physician has assessed your situation, they will write a Medical Certificate B. In addition, the employer and employee must fill in the “Notice - Partial sickness allowance” form (SV 28). The form can be filled in online and sent to Kela.

Fill in the form (

Your supervisor will arrange your tasks so that they correspond with your work ability and are meaningful. If your work ability allows, the tasks can be the same as before. If it doesn’t, your supervisor can accommodate them. Together with your supervisor, assess realistically what you can do and what you can’t do.

In a work trial, you will try performing your work with some accommodations or entirely new tasks. A work trial lasts no more than three months. An occupational health work trial is used at an early stage in your work disability problems when you have not yet been diagnosed with a risk of work disability, but you are not sure if you will be able to return to your work. The occupational health services negotiate on arranging the work trial with you and your employer. Your employer decides on arranging the work trial and pays you a salary for the duration of the work trial, as well as the statutory insurance and fringe benefits, and participates in other costs. Kela pays your employer rehabilitation allowance for the duration of the work trial.

When your disability has lasted 60 days, your treating physician or occupational health physician must look into whether rehabilitation could help you. When rehabilitation is started early enough it is an effective way to support your recovery and return to work. The objective of the rehabilitation provided by Kela and the employment pension company’s vocational rehabilitation is always to enable you to continue in working life.

Rehabilitation provided by Kela

Kela arranges several types of rehabilitation courses that apply to maintaining and restoring physical and psychological work ability and functional capacity, and for continuing in working life.

Read more about Kela’s rehabilitation

Vocational rehabilitation at Ilmarinen

If support measures for returning to work are not enough, Ilmarinen’s vocational rehabilitation could be a good option for you. You can apply for rehabilitation from Ilmarinen. Vocational rehabilitation supports you so that you can return to a job that suits your health.

Read more about Ilmarinen’s vocational rehabilitation

If you cannot find work that suits your state of health at your workplace, you may find work after the work trial in a new job under a new employer. If you learn a new profession with the support of vocational rehabilitation and fail to find employment right after graduating, the TE services, for example, will assist you in applying for a job and finding employment. 

Monitor the impacts

Discuss with your supervisor how you are doing and how the measures carried out at the workplace have supported you in coping at work. Be active and participate in the discussions, which are used to monitor the implementation and impacts of the early support measures at your workplace, also on a more general level.

When you share good practices at the workplace, it benefits everyone. Tell your supervisor and the persons in charge of early support activities at your workplace about your experiences and ideas so that they can be taken into consideration in developing these activities throughout the company.