Know the legislation when you are sick

Article based on a talk by social worker Lizzi Sønderskov at the Danish Liver Association’s fall conference. By Rikke Holm.

When we’re hit by serious and chronic illnesses, our perspective changes. For most of us, work is a large part of our identity. Work isn’t just about having something to get up for in the morning, but very much also a way to feel that we’re useful and find satisfaction in our everyday life. That’s why when we’re hit by an illness, it can be immensely difficult to hit the “Stop” button in time and take sick leave, when we’re no longer able to handle our jobs.

No matter what stage of illness you are, it’s important to know your options. At the same time, it’s also important to seek counsel and support from those around you: They are often the first to see when the stop button should have been pushed.

If you’re employed, it’s important to include your work place during your illness. You should also contact the job centre and possible your labour union to have a talk about staying attached to the work place. It might be relevant to go through and adjust your work assignments. When the job centre becomes relevant, you may be able to access a number of support arrangements.

  • A § 56 arrangement which means that your employer’s expenses are reduced in connection with your sick leave, since your employer can receive sickness benefit reimbursement as of the first day of sick leave. You will also have the option of having a deal in place if you need to be hospitalised, are required to attend outpatient care or have necessary rehabilitation.

  • Help getting aids
  • Personal assistance

  • Replacement

  • A mentor
  • An internship

If your illness results in a partial or full sick leave, the job centre has to examine your case – even if you’re still receiving full salary from your employer. The same is true if you report your sick leave while being unemployed. If you’re self-employed, special rules apply.

Your case will be examined medically, job capability wise and socially. Your social worker at the municipality will, with you, create an overview perspective of you and your life: Can you handle the same tasks as before? Do you need to work with something else? What is your professional goal? A lot will depend on whether your condition is stable or if a treatment exists that might change the condition.

When you’ve been on sick leave for up to 22 weeks within a 9 month period, you will either enter job clarification or a resource classification process – unless you are eligible for extension.

You are eligible for an extension:

  • When it based on the currently available information is deemed very likely that a rehabilitation, including job training, can lead to a return to the regular job market.

  • When it’s deemed necessary to complete a job training or other explorative measures in order to assess your work ability, in which case the sick leave period can be extended to 69 weeks.

  • When you’re receiving or waiting to receive medical care and a doctor has assessed that you will be able to resume employment within 134 weeks calculated from the time of estimation.

  • When the municipality has assessed that a case needs to be evaluated by the rehabilitation team, in order for the municipality to make a decision as quickly as possible on resource classification processes, flex job or early retirement.

  • When a doctor assesses that an illness is life-threatening.

  • When an application for early retirement is received per article 17, section 2, 1 in the social pension law, or when the municipality has assessed that it is apparent that a person’s ability to work cannot be improved and therefore does not need to be presented to the rehabilitation team, in accordance with Article 18, section 2, 2 in the social pension law.

If you’re not eligible for an extension of your sickness benefits, the municipality’s multidisciplinary rehabilitation team will review your case.

The rehabilitation team’s job is to make sure that all relevant parties are united in generating a complete image of those, who are no longer eligible for sickness benefits or are risking early retirement.

Job clarification programme

When you’ve received sickness benefits for more than 22 weeks within a 9 month period and your sickness benefits cannot be extended, you have the right to enter the job clarification programme if you’re still incapable of working due to your own illness.

The objective with a job clarification programme is to improve your ability to work and give you specialised help and support, in order for you to return to the job market or start studying

  • If your sickness benefits have been extended once or more, but cannot be extended any further, you will also qualify for the job clarification programme, as long as you’re still unfit for work due to your own illness

  • If you’re in a job clarification programme, you will receive a financial aid from the municipality equal to cash benefits and which is independent of your wealth and of your spouse’s or cohabitant’s wealth and income. This financial aid is called the interdisciplinary rehabilitation programme benefit.

  • A job clarification programme lasts for up to two years and consists of various ways of getting support and help, either concurrently or in extension of each other.

Interdisciplinary rehabilitation programme

If your ability to work is reduced to such an extent that you’re at risk of losing your connection to the job market, you may be eligible for the interdisciplinary rehabilitation programme. All citizens must meet with the rehabilitation team before they can enter the interdisciplinary rehabilitation programme, flex job or early retirement.

An interdisciplinary rehabilitation programme can last from 1 to 5 years and consists of various ways of getting support and help, either concurrently or in extension of each other. The purpose is to improve your ability to work to such an extent that you can have a connection to the job market – either in an ordinary job or perhaps in a position with special conditions, for example a flex job. The long-term goal can also be that eventually, you will be able to receive some sort of education.

Your economy while you are on sick leave or in the interdisciplinary rehabilitation programme

While you’re on sick leave, you will receive financial support equal to a maximum of 4300 Danish crowns per week before taxes. You may however only be eligible to receive a lower financial support, for example if you’re a part time employee. You should check for yourself what you will be able to receive in financial support.

the interdisciplinary rehabilitation programme benefit is equal to 60% or 80% of the sickness benefit – The highest amount is given if you have children under the age of 18 living at home.

What is a flex job?

A flex job is for those who, because of a significantly lowered ability to work, cannot work under regular conditions. A flex job grants the opportunity for having fewer work hours per week and/or with a lower work intensity, while you’re at work.

How is a flex job granted?

You can be considered for a flex job, if there’s documentation that your ability to work is permanent and considerably lowered in any job.

You are only eligible for a flex job, once you have tried all relevant offers, which are meant to bring you closer to working or maintaining the job you have. The job centre has to assess whether your ability to work can be developed by, for example, giving you a different function at your workplace or to send you to be retrained. Furthermore, it will be assessed if your lowered ability to work can be helped via tools etc.

This rule is not used if it is clear, that there is no purpose in testing job placement prior to a referral, for example if you have experienced a sudden injury or have a critical and progressive illness, where it would serve no purpose to test you. This will be assessed by the job centre.

Early retirement

Early retirement is granted to persons between the age of 18 and the retirement age if:

  • Their ability to work is permanently reduced

  • Their ability to work is reduced to such an extent that they cannot support themselves – even in a flex job

  • All possible ways of improving their ability to work have been exhausted

People between 18 and 39 years of age can be granted early retirement if it is documented, or if it due to special circumstances, is apparent that their ability to work cannot be improved.

The right to a full early retirement is dependent on how many years the applicant has lived in Denmark, between the age of 15 and the point at which they are granted early retirement.

Being granted early retirement is usually predicated upon having been through the interdisciplinary rehabilitation programme. The interdisciplinary rehabilitation programme is based on your options and need for help in order to return to the job market or start an education.

From July 1. 2018, it has been established that a rehabilitation programme should not be started, if it has been documented that the ability to work cannot be improved due to special health circumstances, significant reduction in function or critical illness.