Absenteeism Protocol

Why are we talking in terms of "Staff", "Employer" and "Employee" instead of the word we much prefer: colleague? That's because it sometimes is mandatory, and a Staff handbook -which this formally is- has legal implications.
This document was drawn up in accordance with the legislation in force. If the law changes, that always takes precedence over the rules in this protocol.

Wet Verbetering Poortwachter- Purpose

According to the Gatekeeper Improvement Act (Dutch law known as the "Wet Verbetering Poortwachter" or WVP) both employee and employer together are responsible for a quick return to work in case of illness. The WVP has strict expectations and guidelines for both the employer and employee, and compliance is checked by the UWV employment specialist. More information can be found on the UWV website (in Dutch) or the English UWV website. The strictness of these rules & regulations explains the formal tone of this document, in which we explain the rules and expectations for all involved parties when someone is unable to work because of illness.

­čçČ­čçž┬áDictionary Dutch to English

plan van aanpak action plan probleemanalyse problem analysis arbodienst occupational health and safety service arboarts company doctor UWV Employee Insurance Agency WVP Gatekeeper Improvement Act WW Unemployment Insurance Act WIA Work and Income according to Labour Capacity Act IVA Full Invalidity Benefit Regulations WGA Return to Work (Partially Disabled) Regulations WAJONG Disablement Assistance Act Handicapped Young Persons

When you are unable to work because of illness, the following rules apply:

1. Illness notification

In case of illness, you (the employee) need to notify your employer as soon as possible, at least before commencing your regular workday. This notification needs to be done by telephone between 8:30 am and 12:00 am. You can find the phone number in the #leave_notifications slack channel. Sending a slack message or e-mail to call in sick is not enough.

It is important that you notify us on the first day of your illness.

When you call in sick we will ask for the following information:

  • When did you become ill? (the first day)
  • The address where you can be contacted, if that is different from your home address
  • Expected duration of the illness
  • Whether the illness is related to a pregnancy, organ donation or workplace accident
  • Whether there is a possible relation between work circumstances and your inability to work/illness
  • When you expect to be recovered
  • Where we can reach you (address and phone number)
  • Whether there are any work activities you can still do
  • Whether there are any appointments with colleagues, clients, etc. that should be canceled or transferred to another colleague
  • Whether you plan on taking adequate action (such as a visit to the doctor)

As an employee, you are not required to disclose the nature and severity of your illness, and even if you share the employer is not allowed to include this information in your file. The employer is required to process your illness notification to the company doctor as soon as possible, but at least within one week. When you call in sick, or during your absence, agreements can be made about when check-ins and follow-ups take place.

2. Contact

During your illness, the employer or company doctor needs to be able to contact or visit you. This is why it is important to be available by phone during working hours. If something changes in your contact details or when you change location (for example you move to your parents or to a hospital), inform Voys so Voys can notify the company doctor.

3. Company doctor

If you are sick for approx. five days, the Medical Case manager of the Health and Safety Provider named GOED will probably contact you. During this conversation, questions will be asked regarding your health issues. Expect questions about prescribed medications, sought care, and medical treatment. And if their physical/ mental struggles or issues related to work or private life could affect your health. Try to answer the questions in the best possible manner. That way the medical case manager will be able to help/ guide you accordingly during this time of illness. This call will take place unannounced, if you rather have it scheduled, contact the Preventive care and reintegration mentor.

When you have been ill for (almost) 6 weeks, a next appointment will be scheduled. This appointment will be held so that a Problem Analysis can be made. A written report will follow, ask the contact person at GOED for log-in details so that you can view the Problem Analysis.

Do you dread it? DonÔÇÖt worry, all these steps are here to help/support you! Feel free to contact the Preventive care and reintegration mentor when you are nervous about this. Together you can prepare for this conversation so that any doubts or insecurities can be addressed before the scheduled appointment with the Medical Case manager of the Health and Safety Provider named GOED.

Do you want an (early) consultation with the company doctor about your situation, then you can call to make an appointment (with GOED) yourself or let the Preventive care and reintegration mentor (see Glassfrog) know.

Ծ´ŞĆ┬áLast but not least: all medical conversations with GOED are confidential, the employer will not receive any details

4. Role of the employer

  • The employer will regularly contact the ill employee to check in and ask about their situation. They will also inform you of any important company matters.
  • The employer will draft a brief written record of the check-ins. You can view these records if you wish.
  • After six weeks of illness, new agreements will be made about the frequency and timing of the check-ins. This will happen in the action plan (see below).

5. Role of the company doctor

  • The company doctor can invite you to a meeting. You are obliged to go to this meeting, even if you were planning to return to work the following day.
  • If you already have returned to work before the time of the meeting you don't need to go, but you need to cancel an appointment at least 24 hours in advance.
  • If you are unable to make it to the meeting, you need to notify the employer ( the Preventive Care and Reintegration Role) at least 24 hours in advance so they can notify the company doctor and make a new appointment.
  • You can also request an appointment with the company doctor yourself. This is a good idea if you foresee illness in the future or want to discuss your working conditions. You can ask the relevant role in the People circle.

If any costs are incurred for not canceling an appointment on time, these will be paid by the employee.

6. Holidays or a stay abroad

If you get ill during your holiday or stay abroad you still need to notify your employer as soon as possible, by phone. Make sure to update them on your address and place of residence. Upon return, you need to present a medical statement (made by a doctor during your illness) to the company doctor. This medical statement contains the duration, nature, and treatment of the illness. Based on this declaration the company doctor advises the employer about possible restitution of vacation days.

When you want to take vacation days during your illness you need to discuss this with the employer. Sometimes you need a 'declaration of no objection' from the company doctor before requesting holiday leave. The employer decides whether to grant this leave or not. Your vacation may never be a reason why your recovery is delayed.

7. Working towards recovery

You are required to cooperate and work towards recovery and reintegration.

  • You need to follow the instructions of the company doctor(s)
  • Your behavior should not hinder or delay recovery
  • You need to get adequate professional medical care (your GP or specialist care) within a reasonable time. You need to follow instructions from medical professionals unless you have other agreements with the company doctor that can lead to faster recovery.

8. Temporary change of work: suitable work

When your illness prevents you from doing your regular work, but you are still capable of doing other kinds of work, your employer can (temporarily) assign you to other work:

  • If this is suitable work you are required to accept it.
  • If other suitable work is not available within the company, the employer might look for suitable work outside the company.
  • We might consult with you, and might ask the company doctor for advice about the proposal. You are required to accept reasonable proposals.
  • If you disagree with the decision of the company doctor about whether you are or are not ready to resume your own work or other suitable work, you need to share your objection with the company doctor and employer immediately. When the company doctor and employer don't share your objection, you can ask for a second opinion at the UWV (see chapter 15).
  • read more on Arboportaal

9. Action plan

  • During longer absences, the company doctor will investigate what the steps to a fast recovery and return to work are: a partial or full return, your own work, or other suitable work. This problem analysis will be done no later than week six of your absence. You are obliged to cooperate.
  • During this investigation, you will receive information from the company doctor about your legal rights and obligations with regard to illness absence and re├»ntegration, as well as information about the complaints procedure.
  • We will make an action plan based on the problem analysis (unless the conclusion of the analysis is that re├»ntegration is not possible). You will be invited to discuss the action plan no later than week 8 of your absence. In the action plan we'll determine:
    • What the purpose of your integration is (return to your own function, another function in the company, or to another company).
    • Which measures will be taken to promote recovery and re├»ntegration?
    • The frequency and means of contact between the employee and company doctor (at least once every six weeks).
    • The frequency and means of contact between employee and employer (at least once every six weeks).
    • Who will coordinate the action plan and act as the contact person for the employee, as well as agreements about:
      • At which times do you need to be available for the company doctor
      • The updates you will receive about work (for example; meeting notes, company announcements) and the way this is done.
    • The definitive action plan will be signed by both the employee and employer. The employee will receive a copy of the signed plan.
    • When there are changes in your health the employer might take the initiative to make changes to the action plan. You will be invited for a conversation where these changes will be discussed. The revised plan will also be signed by the employee and employer, and the employee will receive another copy.
    • If you disagree with (parts of) the plan or agreements made, you must express your disagreement verbally and in writing. You can also ask the company doctor to look over the action plan again, before making another appointment with the employer to discuss the action plan. When we do not reach an agreement, the UWV can be asked for a second opinion.

10. Absence file

  • For each employee, we keep a file with all documents related to illness absence.
  • This includes at least the problem analysis, the action plan, the first-year evaluation, non-medical reports from the company doctor, and written agreements between employer and employee.
  • This file is confidential, in line with the GDPR. The file is only accessible by the relevant roles in the People circle.
  • You can always view your file after asking for the relevant role in the People circle to do so.
  • You can ask us to remove incorrect information from your file.
  • You have the right to obtain copies of the documents included in your file.
  • Medical information will be stored separately in a file at the company doctor. You can also always see your medical file, after making an appointment with the company doctor.

11. Full or partial recovery

As soon as you are able to partially or completely resume your work:

  • You don't need to wait for permission from the company doctor or your own doctor.
  • Let your employer know immediately.

If you are not sure you are able to return to work you can ask the company doctor for advice. Ask the role in the People circle to arrange an appointment. If they give negative advice we will follow that, and you don't have to return to work yet.

12. Reïntegration report and WIA-request

Between the 46th and 52nd week of illness, there will be an evaluation meeting. In this first-year evaluation, we discuss what has been done so far, the current state of affairs, whether the agreed goals from the action plan (from week 8) have been achieved, and what the goals and action plan for the second year will be. New agreements for recurrent evaluations and appointments with the company doctor can be made. The minutes of this evaluation will be included in the reïntegration file and included in the WIA-request (Wet Werk en Inkomen naar Arbeidsvermogen) at the end of the second year (if needed).

  • No later than the 85th week of illness you will be called upon for an appointment with the company doctor, where a 'current assessment' will be done. You will receive a copy of the findings.
  • No later than the 87th week we will discuss your re├»ntegration report that needs to be made for a WIA-request. Based on this meeting and the information from your file we will create the re├»ntegration report.
  • No later than week 91 you will receive the re├»ntegration report and medical information of the company doctor, which you need to send to the UWV. The UWV needs this dossier to assess whether the employee and employer have made their best efforts to re├»ntegrate from the start of your illness. If you disagree with (parts of) the report or want to include comments about the efforts of the company doctor or employer, you can add these to the dossier.

13. Frequent absence

In our role as @the preventative care and reintegration mentor, we help our colleagues when they arenÔÇÖt able to fully work because of health reasons. We also are responsible for making sure that all Dutch laws concerning health and work absence are followed. We do this because we feel it is our responsibility to look out for our colleagues and work with them when there are issues that could impact their work.

The arbodienst defines frequent absence (their term in Dutch is frequent verzuim) as when a colleague calls in sick 3 or more times over the span of 12 months. To give this some context, the national average in the Netherlands for calling in sick is 1,2x per year. Frequent absence can lead to something more serious or a lengthy absence, so we use this as a signal to approach colleagues to see if there is anything we can do to help.

Why do we contact people at this point? Because legally there are a lot of things we canÔÇÖt do or ask, but we are able to see how often a person calls in sick, so we made the decision to use this measurement as a signal to reach out.

It's good to know that we can and wonÔÇÖt ask about your symptoms and/or diagnoses. We can talk about the patterns we see in our data, and possible things you could do or we as an organization can arrange to help you. Also good to know, once we talked to you, we will send you a written message confirming what we talked about to make sure that everyone is on the same page.

14. Compliance with the protocol

It is important that you follow the regulations in this protocol. If you don't, the employer has the right to impose sanctions, which can consist of:

  • A complete or partial halt to salary payments.
  • In severe cases (such as refusing to work towards your re├»ntegration or recovery) termination of your employment contract.

Note: Aside from the employer, the UWV can also impose sanctions if it turns out that you have not fully cooperated with your reïntegration or recovery, including the possibility that you will be denied a WIA-request.

15. Objections: second opinion and court

If you disagree with the statements/conclusions of the company doctor or employer you are obliged to address this immediately with the company doctor. You can also use the complaints procedure of the company doctor, and request a 'second opinion' at the UWV. Any costs arising from this have to be paid by yourself. A second opinion is an advice, if employer and employee still disagree, either party can take the disagreement to court.

16. Sharing information between employer and company doctor

The employer has regular meetings with the company doctor about the illness absence in our company. In those meetings, we discuss general measures we can take to reduce illness absence. In order to help us with that, we ask you to bring up issues relating to illness absence within the company with the company doctor or as a tension during tactical meetings. This allows us to take preventative action.