Sickness, it’s not something most of us enjoy experiencing; But it’s something most of us will experience. While I have the luck of being generally in good health, getting sick just happens. Since we are still in a pandemic I thought it might be a good idea to answer 10 important questions for when you get sick (while working).
No matter how young, sporty, and fit you might feel, you will get so sick you just don’t want to crawl out of bed and head to work. What do you do? Who do you contact? What about your salary?
Note: This applies to Belgium. Though it’s always possible that some things are also applicable in other (European) countries, but I cannot guarantee that.
1 What do I do first when I feel sick?
If you are so sick that you cannot work, you must inform your employer immediately. Most companies require a medical certificate or certificate of incapacity for work is required (Dutch: Doktersbriefje).
So you must go to the doctor, or the doctor must come and see you. Your work regulations usually state the time limit within which you must submit the doctor’s note.
The note may not contain any medical information other than the estimated duration of the work disability and the permission or prohibition to leave the house.
If the illness occurs shortly after a previous condition, the doctor must also state whether it is a relapse or a new disease. But other statements such as a diagnosis or prescribed treatment are covered by professional secrecy.
2. What happens to my salary?
- If you have a contract of indefinite duration as an employee (white-collar worker) you are entitled to 30 calendar days of guaranteed pay at the expense of the employer.
- Do you work on a fixed-term contract of fewer than three months or are you a blue-collar worker? Then you have the right to one week of guaranteed pay, and a supplementary week for which your employer pays you an allowance that roughly corresponds to your net salary.
If you are ill for more than two weeks, you will receive a supplementary allowance from your health insurance fund for 16 calendar days. In practice, this guarantees the maintenance of your net wage. If you work in a company for less than a month, your employer does not have to pay you any employer does not have to pay you guaranteed wages.
As a temp, you usually work with weekly or daily contracts. Temporary employment agencies, therefore, have no interest in extending a contract or proposing a new one if you are sick. if you are ill. Your guaranteed pay then expires on the last day of your contract. In certain cases, you are still entitled to benefit after your contract a benefit.
3. How do I get sick pay?
If you are still ill after the period of guaranteed pay has expired, you will receive a sickness benefit from your health insurance fund. It would be best if you filled in the attestation of incapacity for work, which you can download from your national health insurance’s webpage.
You fill in the first part of the attestation yourself. Your doctor should fill in the second part. Your doctor must write down the diagnosis and the starting date of your work disability, and the probable end date.
Send the attestation to your national health insurance. As an employee, you have 28 calendar days to do so, counting from the start date of your work disability. Workers have 14 calendar days, self-employed persons seven calendar days. For example, in all other cases, if you work through a temporary employment agency and do not have a contract when you become ill or in case of unemployment, you only have two calendar days.
In any case, you must send the original form by post. The postmark serves as the date of the declaration. You can also give the certificate to the advisory doctor against receipt. If you submit the attestation too late, you will lose ten percent of your benefit until the date of sending or submission.
Based on the data filled in on the attestation, the advisory doctor decides to recognize your work disability. If necessary, he or she consults your doctor. You will receive the decision together with additional information.
This information includes an information sheet about benefits. Fill it in and return it to your health insurance fund as soon as possible, or fill it in digitally via the only platform of your national health insurance. At the same time, your health insurance fund will ask your employer or the organization that pays your unemployment benefits for the details.
Unemployment benefits the data required for the calculation of your sickness benefit.
If you satisfy the conditions for entitlement to benefits, your health insurance fund will calculate them as soon as it has received all the necessary information.
4. Can my employer check up on me while I'm sick?
The employer has the right to have your work disability checked by a monitoring doctor. The employer appoints the monitoring doctor and must also pay the costs of the control.
The labor regulations or a collective agreement can stipulate that you must remain available to the monitoring doctor for a period of up to four consecutive hours a day. Even if the medical certificate of your attending physician indicates that you are allowed to leave the house, you may be required to do so. Bear these points in mind when it comes to monitoring:
- When the monitoring doctor reports to you, you may not refuse examination. If he or she invites you to report to his or her office, you must do so unless your GP decides that you cannot move. The employer bears any travel expenses.
- The monitoring doctor can only check whether you are unfit for work. The doctor is also bound by professional secrecy and may not communicate a medical diagnosis to the employer.
- If the doctor finds that you are unfit for work, go straight to your GP. The monitoring doctor then makes a new decision.
- Do you not agree with this decision? Then contact your employer. Together with you, he will select a ‘doctor referee’ from an official list who will decide on the matter.
5. How much do I get as sick pay?
Employees and laborers receive sickness benefits from the first day after the guaranteed salary paid by the employer. During the first twelve months of the work disability, white-collar and blue-collar workers receive 60% of the limited gross pay.
Are you unemployed? Then you will already receive a sickness benefit from the first day of your illness. The sickness benefit amounts to 60 percent of your average daily wage. During the first six months, the amount of your sickness benefit is compared to the amount of your unemployment benefit, and your sickness benefit is limited to the lower of the two amounts.
6. Which doctor does what now?
It’s clear there are a number of physicians involved during a moment of absence due to work. So to make it clear I will explain their roles in detail here.
The advising physician
During your unavailability from the workforce, you can consult with them or colleagues of the interdisciplinary team to guide you during this sick period. The advisory doctor of the health insurance fund acts on behalf of the National Institute for Health and Disability Insurance (NIHDI). His task is, among other things, to assess and verify whether someone is entitled to a NIHDI sickness benefit. They also check, together with you, what the possibilities are towards reintegration into the labor force and in what time frame.
The occupational physician or labor doctor
He or she carries out preventive checks on the health and well-being of employees in a company. He makes his decisions independently of the employer. The occupational physician (both internal and external) works in complete independence (according to the ethical code for occupational physicians adopted by the ICOH). Important to note is that an occupational physician is never allowed to do house calls. This is solely the domain of the control doctor. Next to that, you can also, at your initiative, contact the labor doctor for a free consultation. At this point, you can check with the doctor -at your discretion and in complete confidentiality – what are the odds of getting back to work and what type of work is feasible.
The control or monitoring doctor
Checks whether an employee is really unfit for work. He or she verifies the probable duration of the incapacity and other medical data that may be necessary. Think of factors that could affect the right to guaranteed pay. However, the employer will mainly have short-term absenteeism checked, as he must continue to pay the employee’s wages for this period. you might be worried that this doctor can be unreasonable to force you back to work, but this isn’t true.
There are a number of things a control doctor cannot do:
- The check needs to happen at a ‘reasonable’ time; being between 6 am and 9 pm.
- After the check, request the employee to do another checkup at a later date.
- Asking the unfit for work employee to actively present themselves in case of an extension of the incapacity for work.
- Order the employee to resume work (only the employer can do this).
An essential benefit applicable to all doctors is medical confidentiality. Your discussions stay between you and the doctor at your request. Nothing will be shared with your employer.
7. What about my holidays?
Even when you are sick, you build up your holiday rights. For paid leave, sick days are taken into account for up to one year. This means that the first 12 months of sickness are considered real working days. They will be counted when the holidays and holiday pay are calculated for next year.
For white-collar workers, the requirement is that there is an employment contract throughout this period. This limitation doesn’t apply to blue-collar workers.
If you get sick before you go on your planned holiday, then you can cancel your holiday and it won’t be considered taking up. If you end up sick during your holiday, it gets complicated. The European Court of Justice requires its Member States to provide for an arrangement whereby the lost days can be taken up at another time. In Belgium, this ruling isn’t applied yet, so companies can consider those holidays lost.
8. What if I don't recover during my prescribed sick leave?
If you relapse and the period of guaranteed salary has not yet expired, you are still entitled to the non-exhausted part of the guaranteed salary of your previous period of sickness. Resumption means that you report sick again within two weeks after your last incapacity for work.
After the recognized period of work disability, are you unable to work outside the period of guaranteed pay? Then you must again submit a certificate of work disability to have the recognition extended. It must be completed in the same way as the first certificate and sent to the advisory doctor. You only have two calendar days to do so. So remember to take a certificate with you when you consult your doctor. That way, no precious time is lost, and you do not run the risk of losing 10% of your benefit due to delay.
9. What if I'm out for months?
Those who are out for more than one year will be considered disabled. This will change your benefit. It will vary from 40% to 65% of your gross salary according to your family situation, with a minimum that depends on the year you became disabled. You don’t get taxed on your disabled benefit even though the benefit isn’t tax-free. You will get taxed during next year’s tax return.
10. How do I start working again?
Are you no longer incapable of working? Then you can restart working. You provide your health insurance fund with a notice of resumption of work so that the fund can stop the sickness benefit in time. If you have lost your job in the meantime, you can register as unemployed.
Of course, you can resume work gradually or partially with your own or another employer during your work disability. You can discuss this with an advisory doctor. Do not forget to ask his or her permission before you start working.