Boosting the retention and return-to-work of employees with chronic diseases

Launch of a Call-to-Action on the EU Health Policy Platform

Brussels, 27th of November – The European Chronic Disease Alliance, presided over by EKHA Chairman Professor Raymond Vanholder, has launched policy recommendations to increase employment opportunities for the one in four Europeans of working age who suffer from a chronic condition. Through the recommendations, the organisations aim to foster prevention, integrated care, financial incentives for workplace adaptations and the creation of innovative business models, to help people with chronic condition stay-in or return to work.

Led by the European Chronic Disease Alliance (ECDA), of which the European Kidney Health Alliance is a lead member,  the partner organisations have developed a call to action with recommendations to the European Commission and Members States for sustainable employability of people with chronic diseases. Four priority areas for action are identified:

  • Invest in prevention and earlier detection of chronic diseases
  • Integrate primary and specialist care to improve rehabilitation and return-to-work
  • Put in place adequate policy frameworks and incentives for businesses to support flexible employment, return to work, and retention at work of people with chronic diseases
  • Ensure appropriate training of employers and promote chronic disease awareness at the workplace

Prof Vanholder officially presented  the Call to Action in Brussels during the EU Health Policy Platform Forum organised by the European Commission DG SANTE. His presentation can be viewed online here (minute 58:45—1:21:30). To date, the call to action is endorsed by 25 organisations from the health, social and employment sectors. It remains open for endorsement until January 2018.

An accompanying paper presents an overview of the situation and  an economic analysis of the benefits of the professional (re)integration of people with chronic diseases. It also includes case studies and good practices in European countries in managing chronic diseases and employment prospects.

Organisations behind the call encourage putting in place the actions which will make significant contribution to achieving the sustainable employment component of the Europe 2020 Strategy of the European Commission and deliver on the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

What is the situation?

The prevalence of chronic diseases has been growing in Europe over the past decades (1), often affecting people of working age. Over one-third of the European population aged 15 years and older has a chronic disease and two out of three people at retirement age will have at least two chronic conditions (2).

Beyond the direct costs of healthcare to treat chronic conditions, which amount to more than €700 billion annually in the EU, workers with chronic diseases and employers incur indirect costs. Evidence shows that chronic diseases have an impact on workforce participation, hours worked, job turnover and result in early retirement in many cases.

(1) Eurostat, 2010; Busse et al., 2010

(2) Europeans of retirement age: chronic diseases and economic activity. RIVM. December 2012

Read and share the Call to Action

An infographic (see below) on chronic diseases and work with main messages of the Call is available here.

The European Chronic Disease Alliance (ECDA) is a coalition of 11 European health organisations sharing the same interests in combating preventable chronic diseases through European policies that impact health. The European Kidney Health Alliance is a founding member of the ECDA. For more information, contact the ECDA Secretariat: ; see