Falling ill while on holiday. How do you deal with this as an employer?
Falling ill while on holiday. It is the middle of August, the peak of the summer holidays. For many employees, this is the time to go on holiday and “recuperate”, to recover from their efforts. This is at least four weeks of holiday per year for full-time employment. The holiday request has been approved and the employee leaves with camper van and family for the mountains, beach, sea and sun. But what if the employee then calls to report that they have fallen ill while on holiday? How do you deal with this as an employer?
From holidays to sick days
In principle, a report of being sick during holidays means that these days are no longer regarded as holidays but as sick days. The remaining holidays during the illness are considered as not taken. The condition is that the employee adheres to the absence protocol used by the employer. For example, if the employee has to report sick to the supervisor and the HR manager before 9 a.m., the employee must also comply with this on holiday. It is therefore important as an employer to draw up a clear protocol and make this known to employees in advance. After all, an employee cannot comply with rules they do not know.
Exception for holidays exceeding the statutory minimum
In addition to the 20 statutory holidays, employers often grant an additional holiday balance. We call these “holidays exceeding the statutory minimum”. Because this entitlement exceeds the statutory minimum, different rules apply to those holidays. For example, holidays exceeding the statutory minimum can still be regarded as holidays, despite reporting sick, if this has been agreed in the employment contract, the collective labour agreement or the holiday or illness policy. If this is not the case, this is still possible if the employee agrees to it after a request by the employer.
In the absence protocol, the employer can specify how and when the employee must report sick. The employer then passes on the sick report to the company doctor or its occupational health and safety service. The guideline for reporting illness is within a period of one week, but this is best done as soon as possible (within 24 hours). In the period that follows, the employer will keep in touch and if it appears that the illness might last longer than six weeks, the company doctor must draw up a problem analysis.
The employer can oblige the employee to visit a doctor during the holiday and provide proof of this in the form of a medical certificate. This is mandatory in order to regard any untaken holidays as not having been used at a later date. If the employer does not trust the certificate, it can oblige the employee to ask for a second opinion from a doctor chosen by the employer in the country where the employee resides. The employee may not refuse this. It is also possible to call on the sick employee during the holiday to have a telephone consultation with a Dutch company doctor. If the employee recovers during their holiday, they must report this and those days will of course then count as holidays again.
In order to comply with the statutory rehabilitation obligations, the employer may require the employee to provide a residential address and telephone number so that the employer can reach the employee. The employer may also ask the employee how long they expect to be ill and whether the implementation of (temporary) adjustments in the workplace is necessary in order to let them get back to work as soon as possible after returning from the holiday.
If the employee’s holiday is over but they cannot yet return for medical reasons, they will have to provide proof of this. As soon as the employee has returned from holiday, they can be called for a consultation with the company doctor. If the employee has doubts about the advice given by the company doctor, the employee will be free to ask for a second opinion from another company doctor. The employer cannot do this, but it can request an expert opinion from the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV). The employee also has this option if they do not agree with the second opinion.
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