Illness and Work Policy in the Netherlands

By: Together Abroad 22-01-2017

Categories:* Ethics ,

It is inevitable, we all catch a cold once in a while, which sometimes progresses into a flu, restricting the patient to the bed for a couple of days (or weeks). It is inconvenient and it can feel like the end of the wold, but often, after a couple of days, life and work continue as usual.

But what happens when you have the misfortune of falling ill?

Calling in Sick

First, it is important to call in sick. In general, this will be to your direct supervisor. Each company has its own regulations on how to inform the supervisor. Often it is by a phone call, but sometimes an e-mail can suffice. What to do when falling ill is almost always explained during the first day at a new job; if this has not be done, or if you are not certain, it is best to inquire about it. Details are included in the companies CAO (collective agreement) or in the employment contract.

In my case, I have to inform my manager between 8 and 9 a.m. My manager informs my colleagues and the team assistant who will then cancel my appointments. This is the official route we have to follow. What often happens though, is that colleagues, besides notifying the manager, inform each other via text or Whatsapp.

Your employer always has to accept your sick notice. He might inquire after your situation, in case it is going to be a long-term sick leave, then he might have to look for a replacement. However, you are not required to inform your employer about the details of your illness. If the employer is not convinced you are actually sick, he can ask a health and safety officer, arbo-arts, or the company doctor, bedrijfsarts, to pay you a visit.

Besides calling in sick, it is also important to give your supervisor a call that you are well again.

Returning to Work

When the illness is more severe than the common cold and makes it impossible to work, your employer will ask a bedrijfsarts or arbo-arts to support you. During the first six weeks, he will stay in touch with you and he determines which activities are still possible for you to execute and which are not. His conclusions will be part of the Probleemanalyse, in this analysis he describes what is necessary in order for you to resume work. The analysis will be given to you, as well as to your employer.

The employer will write a plan (plan van aanpak) on how to support and help you resume your work. The possibility to resume your own work will be examined first. This can done in several ways: working only a few hours a day and gradually adding an hour a day; adjusting your responsibilities and tasks; or adjusting your working conditions. For example, providing you with a desk in a separate room with only one or two colleagues, instead of working in a busy open office space.

Both the employee and the employer agree to adhere to the agreements by signing this plan. If you do not agree with the suggested plan, you are free to ask for an expert opinion (deskundigenordeel). You can apply for this expert opinion on There is a fee to keep in mind. Details can be found on the website.

Returning to a New Job

When returning to your old job is not possible due to the nature of your illness, your employer will look for different activities within the company. For example, a car mechanic who can no longer repair cars due to physical limitations might still be able to work as an administrative assistant.

Changing jobs within the same company may not always be possible. When your employer is unable to offer you a different job, or when it is impossible for you to work there, it is the employer’s responsibility to help you find a job elsewhere. This can be realised by employing a reintegration agency. These companies help people in their search of a new job, keeping in mind the possible mental and physical restrictions.


During these two years, your employer is legally required to pay your salary. This is at least 70% during the first year. When your income will become less than the social minimum, the employer is obligated to supplement your income. In the second year, the employer still has to pay 70%, but he is no longer obligated to supplement to minimum income. The employer may decide to pay a higher percentage during the first year, the collective agreement will elaborate on the specifics.

UWV Social Medical Affairs

It is not a desirable prospect, but sometimes an illness can affect your future. When after almost two years your health still restricts you from working partially or entirely, you might be entitled to an occupational disability benefit (WIA) paid by the Employee Insurance Agency, UWV. Employees have to apply for this benefit themselves, this does not happen automatically, nor will the employer apply it for them.

UWV consists of several divisions. The division Social Medical Affairs will see you first. They will invite you for a meeting with one of their social insurance physicians verzekeringsartsen. The physician will discuss your mental and or physical capacities and determine what you can and cannot do. Sometimes an examination is part of this consultation.

When the doctor concludes you still have enough capacity to work, you will receive an invitation for a meeting with an arbeidsdeskundige, a labour expert. This expert determines what kind of work you can still do in your present condition and how much you can still theoretically earn. Lastly, he will conclude if you are entitled to a WIA benefit. You are entitled to a WIA benefit when you can earn 65% or less of your previous income.

After the labour expert’s conclusion, the division Public Employment Service, in Dutch het Werkbedrijf, will invite you to review the possibilities to return to work. During the first meeting your current situation will be discussed. Together with a coach you will continue your search for a new job. Contact with your coach will be both via face-to-face meetings but also digitally via their website

Like an appointment with your GP, it can be wise to ask someone to accompany you to the appointments. The physician will ask you questions about your capacities, the labour expert will inform you what you theoretically can still earn, and the coach will set tasks to work on.
Besides receiving information, the conversations, like the websites, will most likely be in Dutch, having someone with you can prevent missing out on important details.

Falling ill is not something you can do much about. Luckily, for most of us, it is usually a persistent cold or the remnants of a ski holiday. A call to your supervisor will suffice. When the illness takes longer to recover or has a more sever nature, there lies a demanding course ahead of you of rediscovering your potentials and possibilities. The silver lining is that you do not have to do this all by yourself.

Cecile Koster

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