CEPS Project


Negotiating return to work in the age of demographic change through industrial relations


The project “Negotiating return to work in the age of demographic change through industrial relations (REWIR)”, brings together research on industrial relations and social dialogue with expertise in occupational health, return to work policies and the fundamental goals of the Europe 2020 strategy.

More specifically, REWIR aims to study the role that industrial relations play in extending the involvement of EU citizens in the labour market through work retention and integration after exposure to chronic conditions, at the EU- level, the national-level and the company-level, against a background of demographic and technological change.

By analysing how different industrial relations and social dialogue traditions and practices can help shape return to work policies, embrace the interests of post-illness workers and further the extension of working lives, REWIR sets out to:

  • Strengthen expertise on the role of social partners in designing and implementing return to work policies at the European and national levels through social dialogue initiatives.
  • Analyse the implementation of particular targets of Europe 2020, such as the agenda in promoting a healthier Europe and active and healthy ageing through negotiated arrangements between employers and employee representatives across diverse industrial relations systems in EU member states.
  • Enhance knowledge on information, consultation and co-determination of employee representatives (trade unions and/or other representatives such as works councils or shop stewards) at company level in issues that are relevant to an increasing part of the work force and enable work retention of people exposed to chronic diseases. Their successful return to work is conditioned by support received by the state and employers as well as a decent interest representation.
  • Extend the knowledge on preventing risk of marginalisation, discrimination and the threat of poverty for workers that suffer(ed) from long-term illness; and enabling their return to work and interest representation at the labour market. This aim highlights the relevance of industrial relations for the Commission’s flagship initiative European platform against poverty and social exclusion.
  • Rethink how industrial relations play a role in the (re)definition of key concepts including ‘intergenerational fairness’, ‘longer labour market involvement’, ’presence at work’, ’job performance’, ’fulfilment of contractual obligations’ and ’fitness for work’ (some of which are priorities of Europe 2020) by raising awareness on the transformation in the world of work flowing from organisational, demographic and technological changes that considerably affect such co cepts.

By exploring these research questions and objectives, REWIR will:

  • Enhance the collection and use of comparative information on social partners’ involvement in the design and implementation of return to work policies across various industrial relations systems in the EU.
  • Gain further understanding of how social dialogue can contribute to tackling relevant social issues, such as ageing population, intergenerational fairness, demographic change, equal working rights and labour market access of workers with chronic conditions.
  • Collect and disseminate best practices of company-level intervention for return to work support through interaction between the employer and employee representatives.

Leonie Westhoff

Associate Researcher

Nina Lopez-Uroz

Sara Baiocco

Research Fellow

+32 (0)2 229 39 35

Mehtap Akgüç

Research Fellow

+32 (0)2 229 39 44

Manon Jacquot

Project Officer

+32 (0)2 229 39 16

Shaping return to work policy

The role of industrial relations at national and company level - Country report for Belgium