Company doctor or health and safety service

Published by:
Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, SZW
Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, SZW

As an employer, you are responsible for a healthy employment policy for your employees. For example, absenteeism and working conditions. You are required to get support from an expert. You can arrange this by joining a health and safety service (arbodienst). Or hiring a company doctor (bedrijfsarts).

Is it mandatory to join a health and safety service or hire a company doctor?

You are required to ensure your employees can work healthily and safely. This is set out in the Working Conditions Act (Arbowet). Is an employee ill? Then you need guidance from an expert. Each employer must have a contract with a health and safety service or a company doctor. This is called the basic contract (in Dutch). You can make a basic contract with a 'safety net' scheme, or sometimes also a customised scheme.

Safety net scheme and customised scheme

Under the safety net scheme (vangnetregeling), you arrange health and safety matters through a certified health and safety service (arbodienst). Insurers sometimes require you to specifically join a health and safety service.

With the customised scheme (maatwerkregeling), you choose the experts you need yourself. You need the consent of the participation council for this. In that case, at least 1 company doctor must be available for absenteeism counselling, occupational health examination (Periodiek Arbeidsgezondheidskundig Onderzoek, PAGO), appointment examinations, and (open) consultation hours.

The health and safety service

A certified health and safety service (in Dutch) supports the company's employment conditions policy and absenteeism policy. They advise employers and employees, and guide sick employees. The health and safety service can deploy various, certified experts who support you in the tasks according to the Working Conditions Act (Arbowet). For example, advising on absenteeism guidance for your employees, the periodic occupational health examination (PAGO, in Dutch) for employees, or assessing the risk evaluation & inventory (RI&E). The 4 core experts are the company doctor, the occupational hygienist, the safety expert, and the labour and organisation expert.

The health and safety doctor (arboarts)

Doctors who are not (yet) trained as a company doctor may also work within a health and safety service. They work under the supervision of a company doctor. A health and safety doctor may only refer an employee after approval by a company doctor. They are not allowed to judge your employee's fitness for work or incapacity.

Right of consent for employees

Employees have a right to consent in the choice of health and safety service. And the contents of the contract. This can be done via the works council or employee representation. They must also agree to the use of the so-called customised scheme (maatwerkregeling).

What does a company doctor do?

A company doctor is an occupational health specialist. If your employee is long-term sick the company doctor assesses the situation. The company doctor has various tasks and responsibilities (in Dutch). Often the doctor works for a health and safety service. Or they work as a self-employed professional. You can hire the company doctor yourself. Everyone who works must have access to a company doctor.

Training your own employees

Do you not join a health and safety service? You can also hire the services of a certified expert. They can advise you on the themes in which they specialise or assess an RI&E. You may also train and deploy your employees as certified occupational hygienists, safety experts, or occupational and organisational experts. This is only possible if you have reached a written agreement with the trade union, the works council, or the staff representation.

The company doctor:

  • may refer your employee to a specialist in curative care;
  • may request medical information about your employee. Your employee must give permission first;
  • must re-register every 5 years and must meet various requirements;
  • must undergo continuous training and be regularly checked;
  • must assess your employee's fitness for work or incapacity for work;
  • must be registered in the BIG register and in a specialist register;
  • advises on prevention;
  • may assess a risk inventory and evaluation (RI&E);
  • may periodically examine employees (PAGO);
  • may hold a health and safety consultation hour;
  • may do a pre-appointment examination;
  • reports occupational diseases to the Netherlands Center for Occupational Diseases;
  • may determine if an employee is no longer able to work due to illness and assess what your employee can still do;
  • discusses illness with your employee within 6 weeks of it being reported, draws up a problem analysis, advises you on reintegration and resumption of work, and supervises the employee's reintegration.

Fine when there is a violation

The Netherlands Labour Authority checks whether employers and employees comply with Working Conditions Act (Arbowet, in Dutch). For example working conditions, employment conditions, or working hours. If there is a violation, you can get a warning, a fine, or you may need to suspend work.

Questions relating to this article?

Please contact the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, SZW