Staff member who benefit from the Return To Work assistance programme

Published on 30/09/2021


Return To Work: a success story


​Four years ago, we started offering Return To Work assistance and guidance as part of our Income Care coverage. The coronavirus pandemic has been a major source of stress, and some people dread going back to the workplace. Where do we stand with Return To Work assistance and guidance four years after the launch? Has the year 2020 had an impact on our programmes  ? It's also time to get acquainted with our new care provider: CITES Stress and Work Clinic.


Staff members with a stress-related disorder require specialised care. Unfortunately, this type of treatment is quite fragmented, with long waiting times. Which is why AG offers proactive, individually tailored as​sistance.
The Return To Work assistance programme provides targeted guidance to get staff members with a stress-related condition (e.g. burnout syndrome) fit for active duty again. We have been offering this service as an integral part of our In​come Care coverage since 2017.

In addition, our assistance programme is specifically designed to pick up where the new regulatory return-to-work measures leave off. For stress-related conditions, the statutory programme falls short in two essential areas: treatment and the time factor. And this is where AG’s assistance programme fills in the gaps.

Once the sick leave has been reported, it can take between one and three months for the start phase, and the average duration of a programme is five months. Participation is on a purely voluntary basis. In other words, your staff member will always receive the offer but may accept or refuse to participate in the programme at any time. To expedite access to the programme, your staff members should send all the necessary paperwork to AG within 30 days of reporting the incapacity for work.​

Where do we stand four years after the launch?

"Since the initial launch in 2017, our assistance and guidance programme has been hugely successful", says Bram Smolenaers, Head of Market & Product Development Health Care at AG. The number of programmes has doubled each year to reach a grand total of 3,098 in four years. This result also reflects the growing interest in Income Care income protection insurance.

Has the year 2020 and the outbreak of COVID-19 had an impact on our programmes?
The year 2020 was different from previous years due to the coronavirus pandemic.

First of all, our partners had to practice social distancing. Instead of direct patient contact, they switched to virtual contact or a combination of the two (face-to-face and virtual contact). In some cases, the re-entry phase of the programme has taken longer   (i.e. with remote work now so widespread, it has become harder to organise a clear-cut return to work). Despite the challenges of 2020, our care partners continued to deliver top-notch services. 

Furthermore, assistance for patients on long-term sick leave has become more complex, particularly because of the increase in the number of people afflicted with mental disorders such as anxiety. In other words, work-related stress was not the only reason staff members needed to take extended time off. 

And finally, despite the increase in more serious cases plus the successive lockdowns and social distancing, the results have remained stable. Roughly 70% of completed assistance programmes are successful, and a staff member on long-term sick leave for a stress-related disorder will be back in the workplace after six to eight months. This is a major achievement, as 50% of staff members on sick leave due to a mental disorder and who do not have access to an assistance programme are still not well enough to return to work two years later.

New partner: CITES Stress and Work Clinic

Since the launch of the Return To Work programme, we have been working with three specialised care providers: Centre for Resilience, Ternat Medical Centre and Workplace Options. In 2020, we expanded our offer by bringing a new partner on board: CITES Stress and Work Clinic based in Liège. 

CITES is an cross-municipal prevention centre for stress-related mental disorders such as burnout syndrome. It has 25 years of experience in individual and group guidance to address and prevent stress-related and psychosocial risks in the workplace. Treatment is provided in Liège and staff members can  participate in French.

Some testimonials

​Curious about what other HR managers have to say about our service? Watch their testimonials about our return-to-work assistance programme.​

Want to get to know Return To Work better?

Income protection insurance, an essential employee benefit 

As said, the success of Return To Work is also due to the growing interest in an income protection insurance. Research conducted by Vlerick Business School and AG shows that income protection insurance is one of the most highly valued fringe benefits among staff members. Over 90% of employees members surveyed wi​sh that their company would include income protection insurance in their salary package. 

Want to find out more? Take the quiz on occupational incapacity and download the complete research report​.​