What's in a Frame? How Professionals Assess Clients in Dutch Work Reintegration Practice

Teun Eikenaar*, Angelique E. de Rijk, Agnes Meershoek

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


With the increased attention on labour market participation, the field of work reintegration support has grown dramatically. In order to improve professionals' performance, standards and performance measures are introduced in this field. We question whether this will improve the quality of their work. Closer scrutiny needs to be paid to the inherently normative and structuring role of professional judging. We applied the concept of frames of reference' to the process of professional judgement in work reintegration. This concept helped us to understand how a work reintegration professional structures a client's story through implicit rules that escape formalization and control mechanisms. On the basis of 24 in-depth interviews with diverse work reintegration professionals in the Netherlands, we distinguish five of these frames: a procedural, a work-focused, a caring, a learning and a facilitating frame of reference. Furthermore, we show that professionals differ widely in the images they have of clients, leading to a large variety in judgement of, and interaction with, clients. Though differences between professionals are inherent to a complex and dynamic field as work reintegration, the current variety in professional-client contact in work reintegration seems to depend too much on arbitrary professional preferences. Therefore, reflection on these differences, both among professionals and by policymakers, is needed in order to improve the professional practice of work reintegration service.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)767-786
JournalSocial Policy & Administration
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


  • Work reintegration
  • Professionals
  • Frames of reference
  • Professionalization

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