The Working Conditions Act (known in Dutch as 'Arbowet', which governs employees' health safety and well-being) has been amended effective 1 July 2017. The new act allows for greater involvement of employees and employers in working conditions' policies and pays more attention to prevention. What do the amendments mean for you? Please read this newsletter to find out more about the changes.

Introduction of a basic contract

At present, contracts that occupational health service providers and occupational health doctors conclude with employers are widely different. Many contracts are incomplete or fall short of facilities, which leads to inadequate care for health and safety conditions. In addition, occupational health doctors are often seen as lacking in independence. For these reasons, the Working Conditions Act sets minimum requirements for contracts between health and safety service providers and employers. These requirements must be recorded in what is called a basic contract. The contract must state how an occupational health and safety provider will carry out the duties that an employer is legally required to fulfil. The contract thus addresses the existing legal duties for which the employer must be assisted by an occupational health service provider or occupational health doctor, such as reviewing risk assessment and risk evaluation, but also makes provision for the new legal duty of offering employees effective access to the occupational health doctor.

A transitional period of one year applies to running contracts with occupational health service providers after the effective date of the amended act (i.e. until 1 July 2018), so that there is enough time to adjust the arrangements made in those contracts in accordance with the new legislation.

Requirements for the basic contract

The new Working Conditions Act sets the rights and obligations that contribute to a sound professional practice of the occupational health doctor and pays more attention to prevention within companies. To that end, the basic contract must expressly pay attention to seven rights and obligations:

  1. Access to the occupational health doctor: an employee must have effective access to the occupational health doctor. the basic contract must provide how that access is organised, for example by means of consulting hours;
  2. Visit of the workplace: the occupational health doctor has the opportunity to visit the workplace;
  3. Second opinion: if in doubt, the employee has the opportunity to seek a second opinion from another occupational health doctor. The costs of the second opinion are for the account of the employer. The second opinion is performed in accordance with the procedure agreed between the employer and the occupational health service provider;
  4. Complaints procedure: every occupational health doctor and occupational health service provider must have a clear procedure, describing how an employee can file a complaint about the services. With a view to good services, occupational health service providers and occupational health doctors must provide clear information about their complaints' procedure when entering into a contract;
  5. Consultations: the basic contract must describe how the occupational health doctor and the prevention officer will consult with the Works’ Council, meaning that the occupational health doctor can be more closely involved in company policies aimed at working healthily and safely.
  6. Reporting of occupational diseases: the basic contract must make it clear how the occupational health doctor can identify, recognise, diagnose and report occupational diseases to the Netherlands Centre for Occupational Diseases.
  7. Prevention advice: the contract must contain provisions regarding the advice of the occupational health doctor to the employer in order to prevent illness.

Introduction of Works’ Council's right of consent regarding the person and position of the prevention officer

Prevention is a spearhead of the legislative proposal. That is why the Works’ Council, in addition to the set of duties of the prevention officer, now additionally has a right of consent regarding the person of the prevention officer and the officer's positioning within the organisation. The consent means that the prevention officer must have a support base within the company and that the Works’ Council is partly responsible for ensuring that the prevention worker performs adequately within the company.

Conclusion

It is important to respond to the new working conditions legislation, by thinking about how employees working in a business can gain effective access to their occupational health doctor. The introduction of the basic contract will also lead to changes.

It goes without saying that we will be happy to address any specific questions with you.