The employer has the obligation to provide a safe working environment for its employees. The rules with which the employer must comply are laid down in the "Working Conditions Act" and underlying regulations (hereinafter also referred to as the "Working Conditions Act").
The health and safety policy pursued by the employer consists of all measures and provisions designed to limit health risks for employees, reduce absenteeism due to illness and promote reintegration after illness. The employer must consult with the Works Council or employee representatives about this policy. There are a number of obligations that the employer must at least meet:
Risk Inventory and Evaluation: The employer is obliged to draw up an RI&E (risk inventory and evaluation) in which an analysis is made of the risks that the nature of the work entails for employees. This can vary greatly from sector to sector. Based on the RI&E, a Plan of Action must then be drawn up, stating what measures will be taken to limit the risks identified and to ensure the health and safety of employees.
Sick leave policy: The sick leave policy is the way in which the employer deals with (the prevention of) incapacity for work and the reintegration obligations. The following topics are among others a mandatory part of the sick leave policy.
Prevention officer: A prevention officer must be appointed within each company. A prevention officer is an employee who - usually in addition to the performance of his / her job - is committed to reducing risks in the workplace and absenteeism. If the employer has no more than 25 employees, employer can take on the role of prevention officer himself.
Access to company doctor: All employees have free access to the company doctor. The employer does not have to give permission before an employee can make an appointment. This free access is intended to limit complaints and absenteeism. If an employee is in doubt about the advice given by the company doctor, he/she may request a second opinion. The company doctor or Health and Safety Service must then give the employee the opportunity to ask for the advice of another company doctor.
Basic contract for health and safety services: Every employer must enter into an agreement with an Occupational Health and Safety Service or company doctor. This agreement must at least include a division of tasks between the employer and the Arbodienst/company doctor. In addition, agreements must be made about access to the company doctor, a second opinion and consultation between the prevention officer and the Working Conditions Service/company doctor. Finally, a complaints procedure must be agreed.
Company emergency service: The employer must ensure that adequate company emergency service is available. Depending on the size of the workforce and the risks within the company, it must be determined how many company first aiders must be present at the workplace. This inventory can be included in the RI&E.
In the context of the Working Conditions Act, employees also have a personal responsibility for the health and safety of themselves and colleagues, insofar as they can influence it.
The employer is obliged to ensure a safe workplace. Nevertheless, accidents at work occur regularly. After all, risks cannot be completely eliminated. In some cases, the employer must report an occupational accident to the Social Affairs and Employment Inspectorate (SZW). An obligation to report exists if there is:
The Inspectorate SZW is responsible for monitoring compliance with occupational health and safety legislation. Every year, sectors are designated on which the inspection will focus. In addition, investigations are conducted in response to reports of industrial accidents. In addition, the works council or staff representative body can submit a complaint (following consultation with the employer). In these cases, too, the Inspectorate SZW may decide to launch an investigation. The Inspectorate SZW has been granted special powers to conduct an adequate investigation.
If the Inspectorate SZW concludes that the Working Conditions Act is not being properly complied with, it may decide to impose a sanction. The Inspectorate SZW can choose between different types of sanction. These include a warning, a requirement to comply, stopping work or imposing a fine. The amount of the fine. The amount of the fine varies per violation and is maximum EUR 50,000. The severity of the violation plays an important role in the imposition of a sanction. A heavier sanction may be imposed if the employer has been warned or punished before.
If employer is faced with a sanction by the Inspectorate SZW, employer may lodge an objection and then possibly lodge an appeal. An objection may lead to a reconsideration of the decision to impose a sanction. A successful objection may result in no sanction being imposed after all, or in a less far-reaching sanction being imposed. The attorneys at Blenheim can help you draft an objection.
If you have any questions about the obligations of the employer and employee under the Working Conditions Act or if you need help in lodging an objection to a sanction imposed by the Inspectorate, please feel free to contact the employment law attorneys of Blenheim here.