Dr. Susanne Bartel
Head of Research and Development
Federal Association of Vocational Rehabilitation Centres, Germany
Federal Association of Vocational Rehabilitation Centres, Germany

Working beyond the health sector: job-rotation as a tool to maintain employability and wellbeing

The TErrA project is an example of how health promoting projects can take place outside of the health and healthcare sector. For more information about this approach, read our chapter Beyond the health sector.


The preventive job rotation process, developed during the TErrA project (2016-2019), is a consulting model for employees who are willing to change jobs and companies that support job rotation for personnel development. The resource-oriented consulting approach aims to help employees to develop a concrete perspective for their further career path within three consulting appointments which would then lead to a meaningful inter-company job change.

The main objective of preventive career planning is to maintain individual in employment through offering any worker employment alternatives that would consider their health and motivation, and would help acquire new skills. Early health and qualification measures promote repositioning of workers on the labour market and strengthen their chances to stay professionally active until the statutory retirement age.

Facing challenges posed by the demographic change and digital transformation, new ageing management concepts and prevention models are becoming increasingly important to employees, companies and national social security systems. Unmet activity-related performance potential in older age is often associated with unhealthy working conditions and lack of opportunities to develop professionally and personally.

Although it has been shown that gainful employment has a salutogenic effect, a large number of employees leave working life prematurely every year due to health reasons. In a representative survey of the German Confederation of Trade Unions (DGB 2014[1]), almost half of the employees stated that they could not imagine carrying out in their current occupation until retirement. At the personal level this leads to considerable personal and financial restrictions due to a premature job leave. At the state level, the economy loses considerable resources in terms of labour, combined with burdens on the social security systems. A possible preventive measure is a job-rotation between companies at the local/regional level to counteract the premature job leave and prevent the development of employment-related health problems.

During the preventive job rotation process, companies and employees go through a 4-step consultation process of (1) sensitisation and orientation, (2) finding perspectives, (3) realisation and (4) aftercare. Throughout the process, the personal health status, personal qualifications, specific requirements of possible new jobs and motivation are considered.

TErrA project in Germany has shown, among other things, that since internal job changes in SMEs are often limited due to low jobs variance, inter-company job changes in a Regional Company Network could enable a good fit between work requirements and employees’ qualifications. Models for skills development within an area of expertise or employment could be switching from production to service or further specialisation. Classic examples are a nurse who qualifies as a medical coding specialist, or a roofer, who switches to sales in the construction sector. Employees must be made aware of their current employment risks and opportunities at an early stage in their career planning in order to prepare for a future job change. The process requires a corporate culture where employers and employees bear joint responsibility for employability.

The major learning of the project was that currently there are no possibilities for the financial support of a preventive job rotation. For companies and employees, a job change is usually associated with further training. The costs of such preventive training are currently not covered neither by the pension, accident, health nor unemployment insurance. An entitlement to benefits only exists when the first health related impairments have already occurred. As a result, both employees and companies lack the possibility of shaping a preventative employment career path.

The hope that the German Prevention Act will provide new impulses to fund preventive job rotation has not yet come true. Intending to close the gap, social insurance institutions are designing initial models attempting to move towards preventive employment paths. Nevertheless, there are other laws that could support further development and implementation of the job rotation project. For instance, “Flexirentengesetz” adopted in 2016, which makes the transition from working life to retirement more flexible, at the same time increasing the attractiveness of working beyond the regular retirement age, allows for a voluntary work-related health check for insured persons aged 45 and over (“Ü45 check”). Another current development is the “Qualifizierungschancengesetz” (Qualification Opportunities Act) aimed to considerably increase investment in further employee qualifications to keep them fit for the rapidly changing labour market.

The development and coordination of networks to support inter-company job changes should be promoted by the state as structural features of a life course-oriented social and labour market policies. In this spirit, the Federal Association of Vocational Rehabilitation Centres is currently developing a consulting service for companies and employees based on the TErrA idea.