Proposed amendments to the Working Conditions Act aim (i) to strengthen the involvement of employers in preventing ill-health absence and in reintegrating employees after absence; and (ii) to improve the independence and professionalism of company doctors.
Under the proposals (i) the company doctor would attend the workplace to hold consultations with employees at work (ie. an employee need not be off sick to see the doctor); (ii) the works council or employee representation body must consent to the appointment of the occupational health and safety officer; (iii) the employer is made responsible for absence management; (iv) employers will be obliged to enter into an agreement with an occupational health provider which must specify the assistance to be provided and must require close cooperation between the occupational health provider, the company doctor, the health and safety officer and the employee representation body. The agreement must also allow for second opinion to be requested and provide for advice on prevention measures and for reports on occupational diseases. The SZW Inspectorate will be responsible for enforcement of these agreements.
Changes to the Work and Security Act have been announced which include measures regarding transition payments which are payable in the event of dismissal on the grounds of long-term incapacity for work.
Where an employee is absent on long term sick leave, in principle the employer must pay the employee's wages for the first two years. During this two year period, termination is prohibited but thereafter, the employer may terminate the employee's employment. Under the Work and Security Act, such a termination has negative consequences for the employer who is obliged to pay a transition payment. Because of this, employers tend not to dismiss after the two year period and, instead, leave the employment contract dormant. Under the proposed legislative changes, government funds (the General Unemployment Fund) would be used to compensate an employer for the cost of a transition payment to a long-term absentee.
Changes proposed to the Work and Income (Implementation Structure) Act and Work and Income (Capacity for Work) Act would introduce an interim assessment by the Employee Insurance Agency (EIA) of an employer's employee reintegration plans. This would apply to employers insured by the EIA and would allow the EIA to approve the plan of action for reintegration during the second year of absence. Where an action plan is approved, the EIA will assess at the end of the second year of illness whether or not it has been carried out correctly.