Work in Natural Environments for People with an Occupational Disability (Binnenwerk Buiten)

In the Netherlands, everyone should be able to participate in society according to their ability and have the opportunity to direct their own life. Work is an important element of this capability. Therefore, the Dutch government aims to support employment for every citizen, including people with an occupational disability (1,8 million Dutch citizens). Their labor participation is lagging behind, despite the fact many of them are (partially) able to work and are eager to do so. In 2013, the Dutch government, employer’s and employee’s organizations agreed to create 125.000 (adapted) jobs at regular employers (government and private sector) for this target group: the so-called “Job Agreement Jobs” (JAJs). Binnenwerk is (as executive organization at the central government) responsible for the creation of JAJs at govermental departments. At the moment, Binnenwerk employs around 400 people with an occupational disability. Part of these jobs (around 200) are created in cooperation with Staatsbosbeheer, the Dutch Forestry Organization. Employees are employed by Binnenwerk and are seconded at Staatsbosbeheer. In the coming years, this collaboration will grow with about 80-100 jobs per year. These jobs are unique because they are potentially structural, year-round jobs in nature maintenance with a regular employer.

One of the aims of JAJs is that these jobs contribute to sustainable employability and perceived health of people with an occupational disability. This effect has not yet been scientifically researched. Therefore, the overall aim of this research project is to investigate to what extent occupational participation (JAJs) in a natural environment has an effect on the self-rated health and sustainable employability of employees with an occupational disability. Next, this study investigates which mechanisms do (or do not) lead to change. The research uses a mixed-method design with a participatory action approach and a control group from a non-green work environment. This allows to unravel the specific contribution of the natural environment as a comparison with different types of Binnenwerk jobs, such as building assistance or catering is possible. Experiences of the target group and stakeholders are incorporated with inclusive participatory methods. The societal aim of this study is to contribute to a more inclusive and health promoting labour market with capabilities for people with an occupational disability.