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Last updated: 21.06.2023

Older workers – work arrangements, rehabilitation, and support

Support for work ability is increasingly important for an ageing and shrinking population who must work for longer and face tougher requirements. What can be done to support the work ability of the over-55s?

In the workplace, the primary responsibility for promoting the well-being and work ability of older workers rests with the employer. Every organisation should practise comprehensive well-being at work, have a playbook for promoting and maintaining well-being at work and work ability, and include the above in the duties of their supervisors and management. 

Accounting for changes in the work ability of older workers  

Supervisors must monitor the work ability and coping of their subordinates. If a supervisor observes or is notified of a problem with a worker’s work ability, the supervisor must investigate the issue and decide if it can be resolved by rearranging duties or improving instructions. Workers may also bring up their problems with coping with work. The first step for assessing work ability is the early support model

The work ability issues of older workers must be considered in conjunction with the workplace’s hazard and risk survey and assessment. Every employer is obligated to assess hazards and risks by the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The assessment and the risk management measures must consider age-related factors and other personal characteristics, including gender and skill. 

Means and methods for support and coping with work 

Adjusting duties 

The duties of a worker may be rearranged internally according to the worker’s work ability and situation, or their working hours or methods may be modified. These adjustments can be temporary or permanent, depending on the worker’s needs and situation. 

Adjusting working hours 

The worker and employer may negotiate a shortened working week or reduced daily working hours, according to the situation. For example, many employers have prepared special age programmes that may include extra paid time off for veteran workers, among other things. 

Temporary working time arrangements may be made to support work ability and coping. In some cases, it is enough to limit work to certain hours of the day, avoiding night shifts, early shifts, or business trips, for example. 

In some cases, the social security system may provide certain benefits to support the work ability of workers. You can read more about these below. 

Improving ergonomics 

If new tools, furniture, or structural changes are needed at the workplace to support a worker’s work ability or return to work, the employer must accommodate the worker’s needs – within the company’s means, of course. Ergonomics are important, and the employer must ensure that all technologies and activities are adjusted to suit their workers. 

If the disability or illness of a new hire or current worker requires new tools, furniture, structural changes, or assistance from another worker, the employer may be eligible for state support (subsidy for arranging working conditions, työsuhteen järjestelytuki). This support is not intended for providing standard workplace ergonomics. If subsidised, the employer is still required to pay some of the costs if the subsidy concerns an existing worker. The subsidy is granted by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. The maximum subsidy is €4,000 for each person. 


If the above measures, taken at the workplace level, prove insufficient, rehabilitation is the next step for supporting continued employment. There are three types of rehabilitation: medical, vocational, and social. For continued employment, the primary types are medical and vocational. Rehabilitation is steered by the occupational health service.  

Medical rehabilitation is provided by a municipal health centre, hospital, the occupational health service, or Kela, according to the injury or illness. Accident insurance companies may compensate medical rehabilitation as part of medical care if the need for rehabilitation resulted from an occupational illness or accident. 

Vocational rehabilitation supports the continued employment of working-age people in their current job or a new position. Vocational rehabilitation is intended for persons whose illness or other health reasons put them at risk of unemployment in the next few years. The rehabilitation may be a work trial, work coaching, additional training, retraining for a new industry or position, or a start-up grant for self-employment. 

KIILA rehabilitation is a form of vocational rehabilitation offered by Kela to the gainfully employed. Its purpose is to improve the worker’s work ability and support their continued employment.  

Kela also provides targeted rehabilitation for certain illnesses and injuries. The purpose is to help the person cope with their daily life and work despite their condition. 

Livelihood and benefits 

The gainfully employed are entitled to social security benefits if they are no longer able to earn a livelihood due to a decreased work ability. The criteria for incapacity for work are laid out in law. If a worker meets the criteria, they are entitled to full or partial sickness allowance, full or partial rehabilitation allowance, full or partial disability pension, the working condition arrangement subsidy (paid to the employer), or the benefits granted by the Workers’ Compensation Act. 

Sickness allowance 

Sickness allowance (sairauspäiväraha) is intended for persons who have lost their ability to work due to injury or illness. Workers can receive sickness allowance from Kela after 9 + 1 days of illness. Most collective agreements include an arrangement whereby the employer pays the worker during their illness for a certain period of time and receives the sickness allowance from Kela on behalf of the worker. If the worker’s illness continues after this period, the sickness allowance is then paid directly to the worker. If and for how long employers must pay ill workers depends on the collective agreement. 

Read more about sick pay (sairausajan palkka) and diagnosed illnesses and the right to sick pay

Partial sickness allowance 

Partial sickness allowance (osasairauspäiväraha) is granted to support continued employment or a return to work after a prolonged illness. The recipient must be able to work part-time but unable to continue in their previous job. The allowance is granted by Kela based on the statements of the employer and the occupational health physician or the worker’s personal physician. The allowance is 50 per cent of the full sickness allowance. 

Read more about partial sick leave and partial sickness allowance

Rehabilitation allowance and partial rehabilitation allowance 

Rehabilitation allowance (kuntoutusraha) is paid to people in vocational rehabilitation for the period when they are unable to do their work. If the rehabilitee had a part-time job, they receive partial rehabilitation allowance. 

Depending on the party providing the rehabilitation, the rehabilitation allowance is paid by Kela or the recipient’s employment pension insurance company. Pension insurance companies may choose to rehabilitate people on disability pension, who are then granted their rehabilitation allowance. In addition, pension insurance companies may grant discretionary benefits, including a rehabilitation allowance for the waiting period, intervals, and planning period of employment pension rehabilitation (työeläkekuntoutus). 

Disability pension 

Disability pension (työkyvyttömyyseläke) may be granted permanently or as a temporary arrangement for rehabilitation. Permanent disability pension is granted to persons whose work ability has been reduced beyond any capacity for work. Relaxed criteria are used to assess the work ability of persons over 60 years of age – their ability is only compared to their current job and its requirements.  

Partial disability pension 

Partial disability pension (osatyökyvyttömyyseläke) is granted to persons whose work ability is reduced but who can still work part-time. In this case, we recommend negotiating a part-time contract with your employer to keep your job. 

Workers’ Compensation Act benefits 

If an accident at work causes a worker to lose their work ability, their compensation and rehabilitation are reimbursed according to the Workers’ Compensation Act (in Finnish). 


Occupational safety representatives and union representatives can provide answers and advice. Some large companies may appoint a work ability coordinator from their human resources department or occupational health service. These coordinators help and support workers with rehabilitation, work ability, and motivation. 

In addition, you can contact the rehabilitation experts of Kela and your employment pension insurance company. They are the right people to ask about rehabilitation. 

Useful links 

See also