Nordic co-operation on integration and inclusion

Finland’s first SIB project shown to strengthen work disability management – goals partly reached


7 Nov 2019

The assessment of the Occupational well-being SIB project, Finland’s first Social Impact Bond, is complete. It was carried out by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

Over 1,500 public-sector employees were within the project’s scope. The occupational well-being services that they received were paid for with funds collected from investors. The services helped to improve work disability management in organisations and to slightly reduce sickness absences.

Four public-sector organisations and four companies producing occupational well-being services participated in the Promoting occupational well-being in the public sector (Occupational well-being SIB) project. The organisations took various measures to improve occupational well-being, including health and work ability surveys, management training and development of co-operation in the area of occupational health. Groups for activating and rehabilitating those at a risk of being incapable of working were also established.

Above all, the major benefits of the project included the improved competence of managers and more intense work disability management. Managers learned to address issues related to work ability.

The Social Impact Bond, SIB, is one form of impact investing. With an SIB, institutional and private investors fund services that promote well-being and assume the risks associated with the provision of these services. Projects are given precise, measurable targets that reflect the desired increase in well-being. The public sector only pays for results that are in line with the set targets.

FIM Impact Investing (formerly Epiqus Oy) served as the project administrator, Sitra as its executive vice president and the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health as its assessor.

Sickness absences not dropping as expected

The project’s target for a reduction in sickness absences – 2.1 days per organisation – was not achieved as expected, even though the organisations felt they received support for managing sickness absences.

“Sickness absences are a poor indicator for occupational well-being,” says Programme Manager Irmeli Pehkonen of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

“So many aspects affect occupational well-being that it may take more than one indicator to measure it. The organisations participating in the project were also fairly different, some of them engaging in specialist work while others were concerned with medium to heavy physical labour. The number of sickness absences is typically higher among those engaged in physical labour compared to teachers, for instance. Nevertheless, the same quantitative goal applied to all.”

“Indeed, selecting this indicator was one of this project’s stumbling blocks. The indicator should be aligned with the objective. Proper familiarisation with the initial situation in the organisations should also be ensured,” says Pehkonen, who led the assessment process of the Occupational well-being SIB project.

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