1. Do not ask your employee the reason for their illness
Your sick employee does not have to tell you what is going on. For privacy reasons (in Dutch), you are not allowed to ask about it either. Your employee is allowed to tell you on their own. And you may ask when your employee thinks they will be able to work again. And if it is possible for the employee to do other work during the period of illness.
2. Report sick leave and recovery to the company doctor or health and safety agency
If your employee calls in sick, report sick leave and recovery to your company doctor or health and safety service (arbodienst). You must do this within 4 working days. If your employee has recovered by then, report this as well. You do not have to do anything if your employee is a temporary agency worker or payroller.
3. Check if you have to report sick leave to the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV)
Sometimes you will have to register your employee as sick with the UWV (Uitvoeringsinstituut Werknemersverzekeringen). You must do so if:
- your employee is sick for 42 weeks;
- the employment contract expires during the period of sickness. If so, register your employee as sick with the UWV on the last working day;
- your employee is entitled to benefit under the Sickness Benefits Act (Ziektewet). This is also the case if you are a self-insurer under the Sickness Benefits Act.
Sometimes your employee is entitled to benefits through the Sickness Act. For example, employees who are sick, and pregnant. Or sick employees older than 55 who received unemployment benefit for at least 52 weeks immediately before entering employment. You must register the employee as sick with the UWV within 4 working days. Recovery must be reported within 2 working days. Both can be done using the online sickness notification (Verzuimmelder, in Dutch)
4. Continue paying salary during the period of sickness
You must pay your sick employee at least 70% of their last earned salary and holiday allowance. If the employment contract or Collective Labour Agreement (CAO) prescribes a higher percentage, you must comply with this.
You are obliged to continue paying wages for up to 2 years. In the first year, wages must not fall below the minimum wage. The second year wages may fall below the minimum wage.
After 2 years of illness, you are no longer obliged to continue paying wages. A WIA assessment (Capacity for Work Act, Wet. In Dutch: Werk en inkomen naar arbeidsvermogen, WIA) will then follow for your employee. Have you done too little to help them with reintegration? Then you may be obliged to continue paying wages for up to one more year.
5. Do not dismiss a sick employee
You cannot dismiss a sick employee. This is only allowed in certain situations:
- during the trial period;
- in the event of instant dismissal;
- in the event of bankruptcy;
- if your business ends;
- after 2 years of sickness, unless the UWV has imposed a wages penalty on you;
- if your employee falls sick during the UWV dismissal procedure;
- if your employee falls sick after you have filed a dismissal application at the sub-district court; sickness must not be the reason for such a dismissal application.
6. Help your employee return to work
The Eligibility for Permanent Incapacity Benefit Restrictions Act (in Dutch, Wet verbetering poortwachter, Wvp) requires you and your employee to find ways together on how to get them back to work as soon as possible. This is called ‘reintegration’.
This can be done in 2 ways:
- your employee returns to work for you in a new or modified job. For example, you can adjust the workplace. Or provide flexible working hours.
- your employee can no longer work for you and gets another suitable job with another employer
Together with your employees you should work on minimising absenteeism. For example, employees falling ill due to excessive work pressure. You can reduce absenteeism and the risk of work-related health problems by:
- ensure you have a good health & safety and absenteeism policy
- adhere to legal safety standards
- pay attention to the personal working conditions of your employees
- seek support from the occupational health and safety service provider
- keeping in touch with sick employees
Insure sick employees
As an employer, you can become a self-insurer (ERD) for the Sickness Benefits Act or the Return to Work of Partially Disabled Persons Scheme (WGA). Does your employee become ill or unfit for work? Then you will pay the benefit instead of UWV. You can take out a WGA or Sickness Benefits Insurance policy for this with a private indemnity insurer. They usually also provide reintegration support. You will find a complete overview of all indemnity insurers in the Netherlands at the Verbond van Verzekeraars.