As summer approaches, many employees will soon go on holiday. If they become ill during their holidays, they must report this to their employer, as is standard practice in a normal period. The employer can then check this, usually in the manner prescribed in the employers' regulations on reporting ill. 

Reporting ill when on holiday

Employees who become ill during their holidays must report this immediately according to the standard procedures followed by the employer (usually included in a personnel manual or in a set of sickness absence regulations). Such documents may also determine how employees should report ill if they become ill while on holiday.

The employer's sickness absence regulations should preferably include the stipulation that, if employees become ill while on holiday (abroad), they should submit a statement from a (foreign) doctor or general physician verifying that they are ill. The next step in the procedure depends on the agreements that the employer has made with the occupational physician/occupational health and safety service. The sickness absence regulations should preferably also include the stipulation that, before going on holiday, employees should tell their employers where they can be reached so that, if necessary, the occupational physician/occupational health and safety service can tell the employee where he or she can find a doctor at their holiday destination. If after reporting ill an employee does not comply with these regulations, wages can be suspended. However, employees must be clearly informed of this in advance so they can comply with the regulations.

If an employee reports ill after rather than during a holiday, the sickness absence regulations may also state that an employee must show that he or she was ill for a certain number of days in the holiday. If an employee can prove this, these days can then be considered sick days.

There may also be cases in which an employee cannot travel because of illness, which makes it more difficult for the occupational physician in the Netherlands to examine the employee. In such cases, employees should submit a statement from their physician at their holiday destination confirming that the employee cannot travel because of illness. If such a statement cannot be submitted and the employee does not return to the Netherlands when first requested to meet with the occupational physician (or to return to work), this may be a reason for the employer to stop paying the employee’s wages. Employees must be fully informed of this in advance.  

What happens to the holiday days if an employee becomes ill while on holiday?

If an employee becomes ill while on holiday, it is standard practice to consider these days as sick days rather than holiday days. Other arrangements may, of course, be made in consultation:

  1. the employee may agree that the holiday days are to be considered sick days; and
  2. a written employment contract or the applicable collective bargaining agreement [CAO] may provide that the days on which an employee does not work because of illness are to be considered holiday days. 

The above applies, however, only to holiday days exceeding the statutory entitlement in the year in which the employee is ill, because employees are always entitled to holiday days amounting to four times the contracted working hours in a week. In addition, employees who over the years have accumulated more holiday days that exceed the statutory entitlement should not be unreasonably disadvantaged by having these days regarded as holiday days.

Thus, if agreed, the sick days of an employee on holiday may to a certain extent be considered to be holiday days.

Tips

  • Make certain that the sickness absence regulation explains what procedure employees should follow if they become ill during their holidays;
  • Have the written employment contract include the provision that sick days, including those exceeding the statutory entitlement, can be regarded as holiday days;  
  • Check the terms and conditions of any insurance policy you might have taken out with regard to continued payment of wages during illness. Your insurance company may have special requirements for ill employees who are abroad; and
  • Continue to communicate adequately with employees who are ill at their holiday destination.

Source CMS Newsflash Employment & Pensions, 2013, issue 5