New intensive approach for returning employees to work after cancer


A broad alliance of parties has joined forces to help return employees who are recovering or have recovered from cancer back to work in a faster and more successful way. 140 employees will be coached to allow them to return to work as part of a newly developed intensive rehabilitation programme over the coming two years, the goal being to sustainably rehabilitate as many employees as possible. Academic research will show whether or not the rehabilitation method is successful.


About 40,000 employees in The Netherlands are diagnosed with cancer each year. Although their minds will initially be occupied with other things than work, they usually are very motivated to return to work once they have finalized treatment. That said, the rehabilitation of cancer survivors tends to be a difficult process. They are facing fatigue, are having trouble concentrating and are suffering from memory loss. 25% of them eventually lose their jobs.

New approach
Insurance company a.s.r. with its brand De Amersfoortse (the principal), occupational health and safety service ArboNed and rehabilitation agency Re-turn (the agents), ABN AMRO Social Impact Fund and Start Foundation (the investors) have now joined hands to address this problem. This has led to a new approach to returning employees who are recovering or have recovered from cancer to work and to reduce their absence levels.

How does it work?
140 participants in the programme will be offered intensive support by ArboNed and Re-turn over the next two years. The new approach hinges on exercise, both physically and mentally, at home and at work. The programme offers physical exercise as well as helping participants to define targets and teaching them how to cope with limitations. The participants will be assisted by coaches, who will guide them through an intensive programme. The employer will also be closely involved in the process, he can count on assistance when engaging in a dialogue with the employee.

Health Impact Bond
ABN AMRO has developed innovative financing for the new approach: the Health Impact Bond. The investors offer the required finance for the rehabilitation programme and incur the financial risk. They will not receive any return until the envisaged results have been reached. Independent reviewers will determine the extent to which the envisaged goals have been accomplished. The principal then pays the investors based on the savings it has achieved on policies for absenteeism insurance. The goal for the investors is to bring about both social and financial returns.

Ragna van Hummel, founder and Managing Director of Re-turn: ‘I’m confident that this new approach, which is based on being in motion, exercise and structure, will help return employees back to work quicker. Speaking from experience, I know the importance of being able to return to work after having been treated. Together with the other parties involved in the programme, we are committed to improve the quality of life of employees who are recovering from cancer.’

Frank Romijn, Director of Income Protection Products at a.s.r./De Amersfoortse: ‘We’re happy to team up with this highly diverse group of stakeholders with a view to developing an innovative approach to rehabilitating employees suffering from cancer. We don’t want these people to be side-lined after they have been diagnosed; we want them to be employable on a sustainable basis and have the opportunity to contribute to society like they did before.’

TNO and Tilburg University will be studying the effects of the new rehabilitation method until mid-2020. ZonMw will fund most of the research. The total project will cost about € 1 million.