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Work disability negotiations between supervisors and occupational health services: factors that support supervisors in work disability management

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A work disability negotiation takes place between a supervisor, the disabled employee and the occupational health service (OHS) to support the disabled employee in returning to their work, often with temporary work accommodation. The objective of this study was to define the factors of a work disability negotiation with OHS that supported or hindered supervisors in their task/role in work disability management.


The study setting comprised two parts: the creation of survey questions and the actual survey of supervisors (N = 254) from six public and private organizations in Finland. Of these, 133 (52%) had participated in one or more work disability negotiations. The responses covered about 240 work disability cases and considerably more negotiations.


The study identified four key elements that the supervisors expressed as major success factors in the negotiations. First, it was crucial that the supervisors learned about the employee’s health restrictions and understood the issues relating to their work disability. Second, the parties should aim for common solutions and conclusions through collaboration. Third, active participation of all the negotiation parties is important. The supervisors gave a high rating to OHS taking their views seriously. Last, the supervisors appreciated collaboration in a constructive atmosphere.


In order for a negotiation to help supervisors in their challenges, it should reach solutions, conclusions and a restructured comprehension of the work disability problem in a constructive atmosphere and with active communication between stakeholders.

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Correspondence to Anne Lamminpää.

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The research plan was accepted by the Research Ethics Committee of the Medical Faculty of Helsinki University.

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Lappalainen, L., Liira, J. & Lamminpää, A. Work disability negotiations between supervisors and occupational health services: factors that support supervisors in work disability management. Int Arch Occup Environ Health 94, 689–697 (2021).

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