When an employee falls ill, he or she is entitled to continued payment of wages. Since the introduction of the Eligibility for Permanent Invalidity Benefit (Restrictions) Act (‘Wet Verbetering Poortwachter’), the employer is required to make every effort to ensure that the sick employee can return to work as soon as possible. This in called ‘reintegration’ in the Netherlands. For this to happen, not only the employer, but also the employee has certain obligations as part of the reintegration process. If the employer and/or employee do not comply with these obligations, sanctions may be imposed.
Reintegration/absence records/Eligibility for Permanent Invalidity Benefit (Restrictions) Act
From the moment the employee reports sick, both the employer and the employee have obligations to allow the employee to recover and return to work. As part of this, an action plan will have to be drawn up for the rehabilitation (reintegration). In this action plan, the arrangements are laid down about how the employee can be helped to return to work. The initiative for reintegration lies with the employer. There are a number of routes that can be followed during the reintegration:
Route 1. Return to the same position;
Route 2. Return to work with accommodations;
Route 3. Return to work (with accommodations) in a different position;
The Eligibility for Permanent Invalidity Benefit (Restrictions) Act details the reintegration obligations the employer and employee must comply with during the first 104 weeks. Based on this law, an employer must keep a sick leave record in case of long-term sickness absence of the employee. After every sick leave conversation that takes place between employer and employee, a short report must be drawn up with the main arrangements in it, this will have to be included in the sick leave record. A copy of this report must also be sent to the employee, to give him or her the opportunity to agree to the report or express his or her perception of the conversation if he or she disagrees with it.
The employee needs this record for his application for an invalidity benefit under the Work and Income (Capacity for Work) Act (WIA) after 21 months of illness. The UWV will then assess whether the employer and employee have made sufficient efforts to meet the reintegration obligations. If the employer has not sufficiently met these obligations, a wage penalty may be imposed.