Why must employers engage an OHS?
As an employer, you are responsible for good working conditions. It is up to you to make sure your employees can do their jobs safely and stay healthy while doing so. The key rules governing these obligations have been laid down in the Working Conditions Act (Arbowet). To comply with this law, every company must develop and implement an occupational health policy. A well-designed occupational health policy limits health and safety risks, reduces absenteeism and facilitates reintegration of employees returning from sick leave.
The advantages of an occupational health policy
Drafting and complying with a sound occupational health policy is a cyclical process, with regular evaluations followed by continuous improvements. A good occupational health policy has many advantages:
- It contributes to sustainable employability and reduces absenteeism
- It motivates employees
- It increases productivity
- It limits health risks in the workplace
- It facilitates recovery and reintegration
Within the occupational health policy, the occupational health service or OHS (arbodienst in Dutch) has an important role to play.
The OHS and employers
Employers have an obligation to take out at least a basic contract with an OHS. This basic contract, drawn up by you and the OHS, defines how the OHS will support you. Bear in mind that the Works Council or staff representation have right of consent and must therefore approve the agreements that you make.
The Occupational Health Act describes the OHS’s four tasks:
1. Supervising absenteeism
The OHS supports the employer by supervising absenteeism. If an employee is ill, it is your duty to ask the OHS to call in a company doctor. If the employee’s illness seems likely to be long-term, the company doctor must write a problem analysis and an advice within six weeks. You and the employee in question then use the analysis and the advice to draft a reintegration plan.
All the actions expected of you as an employer are laid down in the Eligibility for Permanent Incapacity Benefit (Restrictions) Act (Wet verbetering poortwachter in Dutch). Their aim is to get the employee back to work as soon as possible. If reasonable efforts have been made to reintegrate the employee, the obligation to continue paying salary stops after two years. If you cannot demonstrate that you have made reasonable efforts to get the employee back to work, the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) may impose a sanction, forcing you to pay the employee’s salary for a third year.
2. Identifying and assessing risks
Besides supporting reintegration, an OHS can also support you in identifying and assessing risks. A risk identification and assessment (RI&E) examines what health and safety risks there are in the workplace and provides an action plan with measures to mitigate these risks.
3. Offering regular occupational health examinations
As an employer, you are obliged to offer your employee a regular occupational health examination (PAGO in Dutch). The aim of this examination is to the identify occupational health risks that employees are exposed to. Additionally, a preventive medical examination (PMO) may be performed. This supplementary examination focuses not just on workplace related risks, but also on lifestyle and overall fitness.
4. Arranging medical assessments
The OHS’s fourth task relates to medical assessments. These are examinations to assess the health of current and future employees. Their aim is to assess whether employees are fit to perform their duties.