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Long-term sickness absence and early retirement are large problems in the municipal employment sector. Ways to support work ability and coping at work are therefore required. It is important that timely actions are targeted towards employees at risk to improve their health, promote work ability and prevent long-term sickness absence and early retirement. The aim was to evaluate effects of a cognitive behavioural therapy in an early rehabilitation program to improve employees’ work ability.Participants (mean age 49,9 years) in the intervention and in the control group were measured at base-line and after a 9 month follow-up to estimate the causal impact of the intervention in the study group (n=389), compared with a control group (n=100) that was not offered this intervention. The work ability of both groups was measured using the work ability index (WAI). Differences were analysed within and between groups with the analysis of variance for repeated measurementsParticipants in the intervention group showed a significant increase in several WAI areas, resulting in an overall increase in the total WAI score (36,9–38,2; p<0.001) although there was a significant decrease in WAI in the control group (37,6–36,7; p<0.05).The results suggest that the early rehabilitation program was effective in increasing employees’ work ability, as measured by the WAI.