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PH Work: Promoting Healthy Work for People with Chronic Illness

9th Initiative (2011 - 2013)

In order to increase public awareness about the importance of retaining and encouraging return to work of chronically ill employees, a new Europe-wide ENWHP initiative was launched in 2011.

The 9th initiative by the European Network for Workplace Health promotion (ENWHP) and its campaign Work. Adapted for all. Move Europe, is co-funded by the European Commission under the Public Health Programme (2008-2013). The ENWHP Secretariat coordinating this initiative is hosted by Prevent, Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, located in Brussels.

Logo: work. adapted for all. move europe

The objective is to promote healthy, suitable work for those suffering the consequences of a chronic illness - either through enabling job retention or by supporting their return to work (RTW). ENWHP will work towards introducing effective workplace health practices, by creating a favourable culture and by providing guidance and a number of tools to employers, to help make a difference for employees with a chronic illness. 

Please download the brochure and the presentation on the 9th ENWHP initiative 'Promoting healthy work for employees with chronic illness' below! The brochure is also available in other languages: download here.


In Europe, we live in a context of demographic change and recent economic downturn, with a working population that is rapidly ageing, which - amongst other things - will cause a shortage of skilled labour in the long run. Additionally, up to 23.5% of the working population in the EU-27 reported to suffer from a chronic illness and 19% stated to have long-standing health problems. These conditions therefore affect a relatively large part of the European workforce. Examples of chronic illnesses are: diabetes, asthma, epilepsy, cancer, heart failure, musculoskeletal disorders, hepatitis, HIV, depression, alcohol and drug abuse etc.

Because of the predicted labour market shortages and the high percentage of workers suffering from health problems and chronic ilnesses, it is important to increase sustainable employability in order to optimally use the potential of all employees. Strategies aimed at increasing sustainale employability should stress the potential of workers with chronic illnesses and focus, not only on their current employability, but also on their prolonged employability.


Since people spend a lot of their time at the workplace, it is the perfect setting to promote a healthy lifestyle and contribute to an improved health status among the workers of a company. Even more so, because the economic performance of many companies - and by extension, the overall economy - depends on a motivated and healthy workforce!

Chronically ill employees however often experience great difficulties, either to stay at work or to return to work after a long period of absence. Until now, more often than not, this meant that they move into disability or early retirement and thus are excluded from the labour market. In 2010, an OECD report stated that too many workers leave the labour market permanently due to health problems or disability, and too few people with reduced work capacity manage to remain in employment.

Note: The OECD report called 'Sickness, Disability and Work: Breaking the Barriers. A Synthesis of Findings across OECD Countries' (166p.) is available on the website of the OECD library.


The 9th ENWHP initiative "Promoting Healthy Work for Employees with Chronic Illness - Public Health and Work (PH Work)", is designed to contribute to the implementation of effective workplace health practices, by stimulating activities and policies in European companies to retain and encourage return to work of chronically ill employees, and to prevent employees of moving into disability or early retirement.

In the first phase of the PH Work project, data on existing sustainable work strategies, policies and good practices with regard to workers with chronic conditions were collected in several European countries. That information constructed the basis for a set of guidelines for comprehensive Workplace Health Promotion (WHP) strategies and interventions on the retention/return to work of chronically ill workers. The second phase of the PH Work project consists of a campaign to disseminate these guidelines and further recommendations across Europe - in order to enhance the sustainable employability of employees with a chronic condition, so that they can remain a valuable part of the workforce!

On 22-23 October 2013, the European campaign was concluded by the conference on "Workplace Health Practices for Employees with Chronic Illness". The European Network for Workplace Health Promotion will continue to raise awareness on this topic through other activities.