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Employees’ opportunities to participate and be heard increase their ability and desire to do and develop their work, even if they are facing issues related to their work ability.

During the last decade, early support, management and monitoring of work ability have been identified as a key area of occupational health cooperation. Work ability matters have also come to the fore through regulations following the amendments to the Occupational Health Care Act and the related Government Decree and the Health Insurance Act.

Changes in work ability and problems with coping at work are often visible long before symptoms or illness lead to absences due to sickness. That is why it is important that supervisors recognise changes in work ability in a timely manner and discuss them openly with the employees.

Absences due to sickness and their prolongation can be prevented by addressing issues at an early stage, in a solution-oriented and open manner. To ensure that the solutions are effective, it is a good idea to ask the person concerned in good time what solutions they would propose. During an absence, it is very important that the workplace and occupational health care stay in touch with the person who is absent. The employee’s opportunities to modify their work and working conditions have a significant impact on their return to work.

Occupational health negotiations between the employee, supervisor and occupational health care have gradually become an established practice at most workplaces. Many positive experiences have been gained from the negotiations. Occupational health negotiations should be utilised more so that challenges in work ability can be addressed in a timely manner and in mutual understanding between all parties. Many workplaces, small enterprises in particular, are still hesitant to engage in occupational health negotiations, and occupational health care does not always propose them actively enough. More discussion and positive examples are needed.