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Return to work after illness: the role of industrial relations | Online Final Conference REWIR project

The purpose of the conference is to promote an open debate on the state of play and the upcoming challenges for industrial relations’ actors in relation to workers returning to work after illness or for those with chronic diseases.

Given the rapidly changing labour market landscape, including the effects of Covid-19, the discussion aims to explore future opportunities for return to work offered by the new EU Disability Rights Strategy for 2021-2030 and the EU Strategic Framework on Health & Safety at Work for 2021-2027. The panels will bring together participants from EU member states and EU-level organisations, inviting them to share developments in social partner strategies in return-to-work initiatives in their respective countries.

On average 72% of enterprises have return to work measures after long-term sickness absence. However large country differences” (Source: EU-OSHA's Healthy Workplaces Campaign 2020-22 Lighten the Load, MSD-related statistics, December 2020).

Demographic change and population ageing have been identified as major societal challenges, with profound impacts for labour markets across the EU. These processes put pressure on the fiscal sustainability of the welfare state and the capacity of healthcare systems. In an attempt to tackle these challenges, member states have adopted measures to extend working lives. These include increasing the retirement age and the (re)integration of vulnerable groups into the labour market, including individuals who have become inactive through illness or disability. Within this context, healthy ageing practices and good workplace health standards have become EU priorities, as underscored in the Europe 2020 agenda.

The research project “Negotiating return to work in the age of demographic change through industrial relations” (REWIR - VS/2019/0075) will inform the discussion. Its findings will show how different industrial relations and social dialogue practices contribute to the shape of return-to-work policies and extend working lives in the EU member states.

Further information can be found on the project website.

Date: January 29, 2021

Organiser: Project Coordinator CEPS (Center for European Policy Studies)

Programme (final Agenda) and registration info: coming soon (January 2021)

Project Partners:




Tallin University (EST)


CEPS (Center for European Policy Studies)
Online conferenceBrusselsEU