A Guide to Employers’ Responsibilities Toward Sick Employees in the Netherlands

4 mn read

In this article, I want to share my experiences after working as an HR professional in the Netherlands for five years. I hope that this article stimulates the discussion about cultural and legal differences between a European country and the United States.

In the Netherlands, the relationship between employers and employees during periods of illness is governed by a robust legal framework aimed at promoting fair treatment, job security, and the well-being of workers. Understanding these responsibilities is crucial for employers to ensure compliance with the law and to foster a supportive work environment. This guide outlines the key responsibilities of employers towards sick employees.

1. Notification and Verification

What does the procedure of reporting sick look like and what processes will commence on the side of the employer?

Immediate Notification: Employees are required to notify their employers of their sickness as soon as possible, typically according to the company’s established procedure. Frankly, the employer is legally not obliged to ask for the reason of sickness, due to strict privacy laws. Instead, they can only ask general questions, like:

  1. How long do you expect to remain absent? Is there any work that your colleagues should take over from you?
  2. Where will you stay during sickness absence? How frequent and when will be have a brief discussion about how you are doing?
  3. Was your sickness caused by someone else? This is mainly asked so that employers can hold that third party accountable for all costs, like after a car accident.

Verification and Control: Employers may require a doctor’s note or use a company-appointed doctor (in Dutch called “arbo-arts”) to verify the illness and assess the employee’s ability to work. As mentioned above, this doctor is not allowed to expose information about the sickness to the employer. They can only report to what extend they believe that the employee is able or unable to perform work. In other words, all medical information stays with the doctor.

2. Continued Salary Payment

Under Dutch law, employers are obligated to continue paying sick employees a significant portion of their salary for up to two years. The minimum payment is 70% of the employee’s last earned salary, but many employers opt to pay more, especially during the first year of illness.

3. Reintegration Efforts

Both the employer and the sick employee are responsible for the employee’s reintegration into the workforce. This includes:

  • Development of a Plan of Action: A document outlining steps for the employee’s return to work, created in collaboration with the employee.
  • Adaptations to the Workplace: Making necessary adjustments to the workplace or the employee’s duties to accommodate their return.
  • Regular Contact: Maintaining open lines of communication with the employee throughout their illness.

In fact, it’s the responsibility of employers to ensure that all legal obligations are met. This may appear unfair to employers from countries outside Europe. What does this look like in practice? Frankly, even if employees refuse to participate in the reintegration efforts set out by the employer, the government will sanction the employer if they believe that they haven’t pressured the employee sufficiently. For example, by stopping the payments of their salaries until they participate in reintegration efforts.

4. Avoiding Unfair Dismissal

Dutch law provides strong protections against the dismissal of sick employees. Generally, an employer cannot terminate an employee during the first two years of illness. There are exceptions, but these are strictly regulated.

5. Privacy Considerations

Employers must respect the privacy of sick employees. This means that specific medical information should be handled by a company doctor, and employers should limit their inquiries to information relevant to the employee’s work capabilities and expected return to work.

6. Occupational Health and Safety

Employers have a duty to create a safe working environment that minimizes the risk of illness or injury. This includes adhering to regulations on workplace ergonomics, safety protocols, and mental health support. Also, employees have the legal right to consult a company doctor for preventive consultations, and employees have the right to request and receive advice and office materials to enable safe and ergonomic work.

7. The Advantage of this Reintegration System for Employers

While the responsibilities of employers towards sick employees in the Netherlands may seem daunting, they offer significant advantages to businesses in the long run. Firstly, by actively supporting the health and reintegration of employees, companies cultivate a positive workplace culture that values well-being and fairness. This boosts morale and loyalty among the workforce, leading to lower turnover rates and a stronger employer brand that attracts top talent. In general terms, by taking care of your employees, it is more likely that you will prevent sickness absence in the first place.

Furthermore, the emphasis on early intervention and customized reintegration plans helps to reduce the duration of sickness absence. By facilitating a smoother and earlier return to work, employers can minimize productivity losses and the costs associated with long-term absences. Employers also benefit from a healthier workforce, which is more engaged and productive.

Moreover, adhering to these legal responsibilities ensures compliance with Dutch labor laws, protecting businesses from potential legal disputes and associated financial penalties. The proactive approach to employee health and safety can also reduce the risk of work-related illnesses and injuries, further decreasing absence rates and insurance costs.

In essence, while the direct responsibility towards sick employees may involve initial investments and ongoing management, the resultant positive impacts on workforce stability, productivity, and company reputation offer tangible benefits to employers. By viewing these responsibilities as integral to their human resource strategy, employers can harness the potential for not just compliance, but also for enhancing their operational efficiency and competitive advantage.


This is my first article on My Articles, where I wanted to share my experiences of working HR in a country that has strict social laws. I am looking forward to reading your feedback and questions!

As a conclusion, the Dutch system emphasizes support and reintegration of sick employees, balancing the interests of both employers and employees. By adhering to these responsibilities, employers not only comply with the law but also contribute to a positive and supportive workplace culture.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary.


Welcome to MyArticles, an author-oriented website. A place where words matter. Discover without further ado our countless community stories.

Build great relations

Explore all the content from MyArticle community network. Forums, Groups, Members, Posts, Social Wall and many more. You can never get tired of it!

Become a member

Get unlimited access to the best stories and articles on MyArticles, support our lovely authors and share your stories with the World.