A.Etuknwa, Swiss Re - University of Huddersfield, UK

Work disability is a global concern with substantial burdens. It cost the UK economy £100bn annually (PHE, 2016), contributed to by limited OH cover and delayed intervention, particularly in income protection insurance, leading to disability. Yet, much work disability is avoidable.

There is evidence supporting the effectiveness of early OH case management involving the workplace (Hanson et al. 2006), and the added value of return to work plans (Mittag, Kampling and Reese, 2015). However, lengthy sickness absence persists, suggesting implementation issues (Waddell, Burton, Kendall, 2008). There remains, therefore, a need for an evidence-based approach to reducing sickness absence and work disability, along with its associated costs, giving overall benefits for workers and society.

While early intervention is desirable (Demou et al, 2015), it is difficult to implement when the central element is overlooked – the worker! Thus, our novel approach is "empowering the worker". In principle, with the right support, the worker can build and negotiate their own RTW Plan with their workplace/line manager. Our solution was to design a web app using knowledge transfer processes, including coproduction with key stakeholders. The web app takes the worker on a journey, delivering information and tools to enhance work ability through developing an agreed return to work plan, with gamification to foster engagement. A prototype of the web app has been developed, and stakeholder evaluation has been positive. While this is located in the insurance protection insurance market with Swiss Re, it has wider potential.

Next steps are technical/design refinement and testing.


Demou E, Brown J, Sanati K, Kennedy M, Murray K, Macdonald EB. A novel approach to early sickness absence management: The EASY (Early Access to Support for You) way. Work. 2015;53(3):597-608. doi: 10.3233/WOR-152137. PMID: 26409380; PMCID: PMC4927878.

Hanson M, Burton K, Kendall NAS, Lancaster RJ, Pilkington A (2006). The costs and benefits of active case management and rehabilitation for musculoskeletal disorders (RR 493), London, HSE Books.

Mittag, O., Kampling, H. & Reese, C., 2015. Return to work practices in the Netherlands and in Germany. Helsinki, Finland, 43rd National Rehabilitation Conference, Helsinki, Finland, 9.3.2015.

Public Health England (2016). Cost of ill health: Department for Works & Pensions, Department of Health. Work, Health and Green Paper Data Pack. [Online]. Available from: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/949296/PHE_WH_infographics_V18_3.pdf

Waddell G, Burton AK, Kendall NAS (2008). Vocational rehabilitation – what works, for whom, and when? (Report prepared for the Vocational Rehabilitation Task Group). London, The Stationery Office.

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