According to the German Social Code, the employer is obliged to carry out occupational corporate integration management (CIM/BEM) if an employee is absent from work due to sickness for a longer period - more than six weeks within one year. As a rule, CIM/BEM also includes a CIM/BEM discussion with the employee concerned. If done well, occupational integration management has advantages for both parties and improves prevention and health protection in the company. To this end, companies ideally establish a CIM works agreement aimed at improving work and deploying employees in line with their qualifications.
Corporate Integration Management: Goal and Process
The aim of CIM/BEM is to overcome the inability to work and to clarify which services can be used to counteract a renewed inability to work. Principles such as consensus, voluntariness, welfare, data protection, confidentiality, preservation of work and health promotion must always have top priority.
CIM can only be carried out with the consent of the person concerned. Employees are therefore not obliged to participate in integration management. In addition, they can terminate a CIM/BEM procedure at any time without any consequences under labor law.
The exact procedure and thus the duration of a CIM/BEM are not specified by law. The employer therefore decides whether one or more CIM/BEM meetings are held and over what period the CIM/BEM process takes place. Following procedure is typical:
- The employee receives a letter of invitation from the employer that lists the objectives of the CIM/ BEM and mentions the bodies involved. The letter must clarify that the CIM/BEM will only take place with the employee’s consent.
- After an initial CIM/BEM discussion, further discussions take place, depending on the proposals of the parties involved.
- Possible CIM/BEM measures are discussed, for example changes to work tasks, processes and times. In the best-case scenario, a package of measures is put together to achieve a return to work and deadlines are set.
- Potential CIM/BEM measures relate to the areas of work-life balance, a healthy workplace, further training, and even a change of job or profession.
- The CIM/BEM officially ends with a final declaration signed by everyone. This states whether (and if so, which) measures need to be taken.
When must CIM/BEM be offered?
Before the employer may dismiss an employee, who has been absent due to sickness for a longer period, they must check whether the employee can keep their job. The CIM/BEM helps. There are 4 classic cases in practice when a CIM/BEM must be used:
- Frequent short sickness
- Long-term sickness
- Reduction in performance due to sickness
- Addiction-related dismissal
CIM Works Council
The works council can co-determine the general procedural rules for the CIM/BEM. However, it does not have the right to instruct that works council members must always be represented on the CIM/BEM committee. However, it may advise affected employees if they approach it with questions regarding the procedure.
To be able to fulfill its monitoring duties, the works council has the right to know the names of employees who have been sick for more than six weeks and thus meet the requirements for CIM/BEM.
When Is Dismissal due to Sickness Possible?
A dismissal due to sickness can be declared if an employee cannot fulfill the employment contract due to sickness. Non-fulfillment is defined as an absence due to sickness of six weeks per year or longer.
However, in the event of incapacity to work due to sickness, employers are required to conduct a company integration management process prior to termination to find alternative employment opportunities.
If a CIM/BEM is not carried out or not carried out properly, a dismissal is disproportionate, i.e., invalid. In such a case, employees may even be entitled to claim compensation if, for example, they suffer a loss of earnings due to unfavorable continued employment.
The CIM/BEM Discussion – Guidelines
The employer and the employee concerned always take part in a CIM/BEM discussion. Other participants may include representatives of the works council and the company doctor as well as, in the case of a disability, the representative of the severely disabled. The latter are only to be involved in the CIM/BEM if the employee agrees to this.
What Questions Are Asked during the CIM/BEM Discussion?
A CIM/BEM discussion guide helps employer representatives to organize the CIM/BEM discussion. The discussion is primarily concerned with the health restrictions and the stresses and strains of the person affected at the workplace.
The focus should always be on the competencies that still exist. How capable is the employee? What can we change together to reduce the health hazards at the workplace and make the employee fit for work again?
Can One Be Dismissed during the CIM/BEM Discussion?
Since the CIM/BEM discussion is part of the company integration management, which must be carried out before a legally effective termination, employers should not terminate their employees during such a discussion. Otherwise, there is a high risk that the termination will be invalid.
Note: Even the implementation of a CIM/BEM does not guarantee that the termination is effective. This is because the employer must observe all formal requirements and prove their proper compliance in court in case of doubt. In addition, data protection laws do not allow the employer to use the findings of the CIM/BEM in the termination proceedings.
What Should Not Be Said during CIM/BEM?
Basically, employers can ask about anything in the CIM/ BEM discussion – the only exceptions are causes of sickness, diagnoses and medication. Instead of asking about causes, it is therefore advisable to focus on the specific limitations of the person concerned that prevent them from performing their work activities. Ultimately, the aim of CIM/BEM is to support the person concerned and provide them with assistance in overcoming these restrictions in the best possible way.