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Effects of workplace initiatives on sick leave and work participation – new statistical and causal models to utilise population registries

Sickness absence, work disability and withdrawal from the labour market are great burdens for society, companies and affected individuals. Reducing sickness absence and increasing work participation are thus key political objectives. There is a lack of systematic evaluations of initiatives implemented for this purpose. The aim of this project is to generate new knowledge about the effects of initiatives to reduce sickness absence and increase work participation in Norway, in particular the effects of the IA Agreement.

The agreement between the Norwegian Government and social partners on a more inclusive working life (the IA Agreement) was first signed in 2001 and has since been extended four times, most recently through to 2022. With the IA Agreement, companies commit themselves to work systematically to reduce sickness absence and withdrawal from work life by, among other things, increasing the focus on preventive working environment efforts. The companies receive access to a NAV Inclusive Workplace Support Centre that offers support and assistance to reach the aims in the IA Agreement, and the companies can extend the use of self-certification during sickness periods. The aim is to increase employment by achieving the goal of a more inclusive working life, and considerable resources are being spent, both at the national level and in individual workplaces.

This project aims to assess the effects of workplace initiatives related to the IA Agreement, and in particular their effects on sickness absence and work participation, through the utilisation and development of novel statistical and causal methods for large-scale registry data, such as multi-state modelling. The secondary objectives are to understand more closely how effects of interventions aimed at reducing sickness absence and increasing work participation differ between occupations, industrial sectors, genders and socioeconomic groups. There will be a particular focus on the two largest patient groups with respect to sickness absence and disability, namely individuals with musculoskeletal and psychiatric diagnoses. Two large cohorts combining several national registries will be used in data analysis; one containing 626,928 individuals born in Norway 1967-1976 and the other comprising almost 4 million individuals registered as living in Norway between 2000 and 2010

The project receives funding from the Research Council of Norway (RCN).

The project is a continuation of the project “Social inequalities in health: childhood health and subsequent work participation” that was established in 2002. The project received funding from RCN for the first time in 2006 and, later on, for two sub-projects: “Work participation and work-related health: a life course perspective” and “Understanding the causes and consequences of dropping out of school: the need for a life-course approach”.

This is a collaborative project between STAMI and the Oslo Centre for Biostatistics and Epidemiology (OCBE), with Jon Michael Gran as the overall project manager.

Project leader: Ingrid Sivesind Mehlum