Com­pas­so aids em­ploy­ers and em­ploy­ees with rein­te­gra­tion is­sues

Interview29 January 2019

Compasso is an association that aids employers with recognising health issues among their staff at an early stage, intervening in an adequate fashion and reintegrating employees into the workplace. The SIA is among the main sponsors of Compasso.

The Swiss insurance Association SIA is one of the main sponsors of Compasso, together with SUVA and Helsana. Compasso board member Bruno Soltermann, senior medical consultant and head of the SIA working group «Personal injuries and reintegration», explains in an interview why the SIA shares the goals of Compasso and supports the association in terms of human resources and financial means.

Bruno Soltermann

Dr. med. Bruno Soltermann, Chefarzt und Leiter der Arbeitsgruppe Personenschaden und Reintegration des SVV

The SIA is in favour of professional reintegration. Why?

Our members, i. e. the Swiss private insurers, both employ and insure people. In Switzerland alone, they are offering some 50,000 jobs. Private insurers want to maintain their reputation as reliable employers and therefore, obviously, set great store by professional reintegration.

In their capacity as insurers they assume the costs of health-related absences from work. For this reason, they have an interest in offering optimal support for professional reintegration efforts.

What does your commitment actually look like?

Insurers and other employers alike have an interest in not losing their staff. They offer easily accessible counselling for people with medical, psychological or social issues.

If, despite those measures, an employee is incapacitated for work, the insurers try and continuously tailor the workload to his or her recovery process in order to reestablish their previous capacity level.

There is one thing we shouldn’t forget: In general, co-workers will have to shoulder any absent colleague’s workload in addition to their own. Such periods of compensating for another’s absence should be kept as short as possible. All efforts made to encourage people to return to the workplace and to help them to do so also are beneficial for occupational health and safety and boost solidarity within the team. Overall job satisfaction increases and this in turn furthers the workforce’s resilience.

Why did you choose to sponsor Compasso?

Compasso is a complement to the private insurers’ campaigns to further occupational prevention, health management in enterprises and case management as it offers employers additional tools to ensure early recognition of health-related problems and successful professional Integration.

Could you give us an example of a successful professional reintegration effort?

An employee suffering from mental health problems relapsed and became once more incapacitated for work. With the support of a case manager, he then managed a successful reintegration. His employer was quick to react and reinvolve the case manager at the insurer responsible for daily sickness allowances. This case manager was already familiar with the case as she had supported the employee during a previous episode. Again, she closely followed the employee and helped him first to stabilise his state of health and then get on the road to recovery. At the same time, she focused on coordinating therapeutic efforts and, especially, touching base with the employer who was afraid of a renewed, prolonged absence from work. It therefore became very important to regularly inform the employee’s manager about the employee’s medical condition and to actively involve him in recognising early warning signs of a relapse. It goes without saying that all these steps were taken with the employee’s consent. The prompt reaction of the HR manager also contributed a great deal to the successful management of the case as she decided to involve the insurer immediately after the employee had been declared unfit for work instead of waiting until the end of the statutory waiting period.

What do you consider to be the key concepts in prevention and early recognition?

We know that an appreciative, open and communication-oriented management combined with team-spirited colleagues are one of the mainstays of preventing health issues. It goes without saying that everybody is responsible for his or her own health, unless, of course, fate intervenes. Blaming one’s employer, manager, HR department or team for health-related problems might be easy, but it isn’t correct. The workplace is one thing, a person’s social environment and all the vagaries thereof is quite another.

Underperformances due to problems in the workplace tend to manifest themselves early on - this means that these issues can be identified early on. Openly discussing such issues early on depends on trust, which in turn depends on an empathetic management. However, this does not mean that managers should be afraid to challenge their employees or to set expectations and goals for them. They should not limit themselves to managing each employee’s individual requirements, but use their solid knowledge of management psychology to take the personal history and unique situation of each team member into account.

Could you give us a brief overview of the SIA’s role in professional Reintegration?

For over 15 years, private insurers have supported professional reintegration efforts through case management. In order to do so, they take part in the «Netzwerk Case Management Schweiz» (Swiss Case Management Network). Some years ago, the SIA started to offer courses on «Mental disability and integration». Moreover, the Association has developed a series of case management tools to optimise the cooperation between insurers.

Your advice for companies from the SIA’s perspective?

Take care of your employees, not only for ethical reasons, but also because your employees are one of your company’s main resources.

When appointing managers, choose persons that also have social competences.

If you suspect a health-related problem, talk to the person concerned. Such talks should be led by the person’s manager and lead to a discussion of possible solutions and individual support.

Don not hesitate to involve your insurer early on. Insurers are able to contribute professional case management fort he benefit of both the employee and his or her employer - by offering advice in case of physical and mental illnesses or absenteeism. There are next to no cases in which an insurer’s involvement makes no meaningful contribution.