(Netherlands) On January 24, 2017 the Dutch Senate adopted an amendment to the Working Conditions Act that takes effect on July 1, 2017. It’s designed to increase the involvement of employees and employers in occupational health and safety services (OHS), to enhance prevention in the employer’s business, and improve the preconditions for the company doctor’s activities.
Open Consulting Hour
Each employee has the right to see a company doctor, even if they are not absent or do not have any complaints yet. This is an effective way of preventing actual complaints and sickness absences. This then means that every employee can visit the open consulting hour without the employer’s permission and without the employer being informed of this.
Free Access to Shop Floor
The company doctor is given free access to the shop floor, which is important because company doctors thus far kept a distance by staying in their office. From there they cannot see, hear or perceive what happens on the shop floor, and which issues staff are experiencing. The free access to the shop floor enables the company doctor to provide much better preventive service for the entire organization.
An employee is entitled to a second opinion from another company doctor. The request for a second opinion can only be made by the employee. Company doctors are normally required to grant this request. They can only deny the request for compelling reasons. The second opinion is given by another company doctor and, where applicable, another occupational health and safety service. The employer pays for this cost.
Clarifying the Company Doctor’s Advisory Role
The new Working Conditions Act highlights the fact that the company doctor has an independent, advisory role. The employer is responsible for the absence management of individual employees.
Greater Staff Involvement
The staff representatives will be granted the right of consent with respect to both the selection of the prevention officer and the prevention officer’s positioning in the organization.
Consultation Between Company Doctor, Occupational Health and Safety Experts and Staff Representatives
The company doctor and other OHS experts have the right to consult staff representatives. They have more options to be involved in the company’s policy on healthy and safe working practices.
More Clearly Defined Role of Prevention Officer
The prevention officer will have a more clearly defined role in the organization. Their task will be to advise and work with the company doctor and other occupational health and safety service providers.
Basic Occupational Health and Safety Services Contract
A basic occupational health and safety services contract will be introduced, in which the terms of the service provision will be laid down. The contract will in any event stipulate:
*That the company doctor has access to every workplace.
*How the OHS service provider or company doctor can perform their statutory duties.
*How access to the company doctor and consultation with the prevention officer and staff representatives are organized.
*How staff can exercise their right to a second opinion.
*How the company doctor is expected to deal with the obligation to report occupational diseases.
*How complaint handling procedures work. The basic contract contains the minimum conditions for the provision of OHS services. These can of course be further detailed in tailored contracts.
Mandatory Complaint Handling Procedure
Every company doctor must have a complaint handling procedure in place, so that an employer, an employee or another interested party can lodge a complaint. This procedure must be clear to everyone and outline how complaints are received, examined and assessed. The complainant is informed about the receipt, progress and outcome of the complaint. The decision on the complaint is made by people who are not involved in the complaint.
Supervision & Enforcement
The Social Affairs and Employment Inspectorate (SZW) is given more options for imposing sanctions on employers, OHS services and company doctors for noncompliance with the regulations and the basic contract. In some cases, the company doctor is equated to the employer. Effective date of new Act & transitional period The amended Working Conditions Act was adopted by the Dutch Senate on January 24, 2017and will take effect on July 1, 2017. As from that date, the employer and OHS service provider will have one year within which to adjust the contracts and services to this new Act.
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Many thanks to our Netherlands Asinta Partner Schouten Zekerheid for creating this post. If you have questions about employee benefits in the The Netherlands please contact Schouten Zekerheid here through Asinta.