Too ill to work – what happens next?

Irene Lansen

If you cannot work due to being ill, you should inform your employer as soon as possible. Often, an employee handbook or sickness policy includes which rules apply during illness.

Reintegration

In case you are ill for a longer period of time, you and your employer are both responsible for your return to work. This is called ‘reintegration’. During your reintegration you and your employer must take the following steps:

1. Problem Analysis:

Your employer will ask the company doctor to assess your illness. After meeting with you, the company doctor will provide a problem analysis. This includes what work you are still able to do and what is required to help you return to work. The problem analysis will be sent to you and your employer within 6 weeks from the first day of your illness.

2. Action Plan:

Within 2 weeks after receiving the problem analysis, you and your employer must make an action plan. First, you determine what your long-term goal is. Can you return to your own job? If not, what other role could you do? Secondly, you agree what support you need. This can be, for instance, changes to your tasks, reduction of your working hours, mediation with your manager or training.

3. Evaluation:

Every 6 weeks you discuss with your employer and/or the company doctor what progress you are making. Your employer records this in evaluation reports. In case of any changes, you and your employer must update the action plan.

4. First Year Evaluation Report:

After 1 year of illness, you and your employer should complete the first year evaluation report. You record what has been achieved and assess whether the action plan is still up to date.

5. Final Evaluation Report:

After 2 years of illness, your employer’s duty to reintegrate you comes to an end. In the final evaluation report you include the current status of your recovery.

Income during illness

As long as you are ill, for a period of 2 years, your employer must continue paying you at least 70% of your income.

After 104 weeks i.e. 2 years of illness, you may become entitled to long term ill benefits, a ‘WIA-uitkering’, issued by the UWV. The documents you and your employer completed during your reintegration are used by UWV to make a decision about awarding you the benefits. To make sure you receive these benefits in time, you should apply no later than 16 weeks before the period of 2 years ends.

If UWV determines that your employer has not carried out its duties properly, it may deny the request for benefits and impose a penalty on your employer. In such case your employer must pay you your salary for a third year.

Conflicts about reintegration

If you and your employer disagree about your reintegration, both you and your employer can ask the UWV for an expert opinion. The UWV can determine whether you and your employer have done enough to reintegrate you. It may also establish whether you are capable to do your own job and, if not, whether any other work that your employer has offered you is suitable.

If you do not cooperate with you reintegration, your employer is entitled to cease your salary payments, until such time you continue the reintegration. In such case you can make a claim against your employer in court, but you will need to ask UWV for an expert opinion first.

In case you disagree with the company doctor’s advice, you can request a second opinion from another company doctor. The second opinion is not binding, but the company doctor will have to consider it.

Any questions? Please contact Irene Lansen.

Irene is a specialised employment lawyer who often advises employees about all sort of issues at work, including illness.