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Your Burnout Rights in The Netherlands 👩‍⚖️ (Part 2 of 4)

You are more protected than you think...

Burnout can manifest differently and at varying levels of intensity for all of us. 

For some, it can feel like a heavy cloud that slows us down, makes us tired, and blocks us from that sense of purpose we used to see so clearly. For others, it can feel like being chased by a lion - anxious and desperate about small things, snapping at our coworkers, having night terrors about our managers... 

And for others, it can feel shockingly somatic. When I was burning out, I would get headaches and lose my vision every time I opened up my computer.

Me trying to convince my nervous system it's just an email
Burnout really does have us feeling like

The main symptoms of burnout are as follows: 

  • Exhaustion & fatigue

  • Insomnia & nightmares

  • Inability to focus

  • Headaches, stomach aches & other physical symptoms

  • Anxiety & depression

  • Anger & irritability 

  • Feelings of detachment 

  • Declining performance 

If you're unsure of what you're experiencing, this is the handy questionnaire that is used in The Netherlands to diagnose burnout. If you have any combination of these symptoms, it’s important to get help: Dutch employers must legally provide preventive appointments through the company doctor. This is an easy option if you think you need advice quickly.

If you think you are already experiencing burnout, it's very important to take time off and work with your huisarts (GP) to seek the proper support for your recovery.

It can be intimidating (I know) to seek medical assistance and start the process of taking time off work, but in The Netherlands, there are strong legal protections for those who need to take sick leave to recover from burnout.

It can be intimidating (I know) to seek medical assistance and start the process of taking time off work, but in The Netherlands, there are strong legal protections for those who need to take sick leave to recover from burnout.

Remember, while the company doctor (sometimes called the “Arbo arts”) is there to determine your workability and duration of absence during sick leave, their ultimate goal is to get you back into work as quickly as possible.

The company doctor will also be noting whether you're receiving sufficient support for your illness or not, so it's much easier for them to check this box if your huisarts (GP) is already involved. 

 If you’re sick in the Netherlands and need to take time off for recovery, it’s important to know your rights ⚖️

Here are some highlights:

  • You don’t need to provide a doctor’s note 

  • You aren’t obliged to tell your manager about the nature of your illness

  • This applies both to physical and mental health issues (i.e. burnout)

  • You are entitled to a minimum 70% of your salary for the first two years of sick leave (and this amount can’t dip below minimum wage in the first year)

Some big companies in The Netherlands have even agreed to pay up to 100% of employees’ salaries in their first year of sickness.

For further guidance on the policies specific to your company, take a look at your employment contract, your company’s employee handbook, or your Collective Labor Agreement (if you have one). It’s important to get familiar with these documents. 

So, you've been given time off by the company doctor to recover from your burnout - now what? 🕰️

If you're out of work for more than a few days with any sort of sickness (physical or mental), your employer will involve the company doctor.

The company doctor should reach out to you within the first six weeks of your absence. Each company has a different agreement with their own company doctor about how quickly this should happen.

In any case, by the end of the 6th week of sick leave, the company doctor has to draw up a “Problem Analysis” for you and your employer.

This should include:

  1. If you are unable to work

  2. What your health-related limitations are

  3. If you are able to return to work

  4. What the prognosis is (estimated duration of illness and recovery).

This plan cannot include any medical information about you (such as your diagnosis) - that is confidential between you and the company doctor (“Arbo arts”). 

After this, the next step is creating a “Plan of Approach”.

This is something that you actively need to co-create with your case manager, HR, your actual manager, or whoever your company has designated internally to manage your reintegration.

This should be agreed upon and signed no later than 2 weeks after the Problem Analysis has been drawn up. 

My advice throughout this whole process? 🤔

Burnout Rights Netherlands

Stay in the driver's seat.

Work proactively with your mental health provider (GP) to advise you on a healthy plan of approach for reintegration. Bring that to the company and the company doctor on these calls. Be clear about how quickly or slowly you want to scale up your work and what type of tasks would be helpful to take on as you try reintegrating back into your role again.

If your company isn’t following these guidelines (i.e. they’re asking for details about your diagnosis or they’re pressuring you to come back without a proper Plan of Approach) then you should:

  1. Discuss it first with the company doctor (and get it on the record)

  2. Ask for a second opinion from another company doctor (and get it on the record)

  3. And if all else fails, seek legal advice. 

If you’re a member of a union (such as the FNV), they can provide this advice to you for free.

Burnout is an illness that should be taken very seriously. If you've ever gone through this at any magnitude, I'm so sorry that you have.

Knowing your burnout rights and seeking the proper support can be foundational to navigating this complex legal system when you are already exhausted, overwhelmed, and stressed. I hope this article helps in your recovery (even if just a little bit).

Read Next:

Clue: It’s Not You, It’s Late-Stage Capitalism

Want to Learn More? 💬

Let’s keep these good vibes going!

Are you a Works Council member in a Dutch company who’s curious to learn how to strengthen your WoCo to a point where it can make big, impactful change (that will also prevent worker burnout)? Then come to our masterclass!

Works Councils Master Class

Written by Kelly Mullins

Kelly Mullins is an experienced worker organizer with a track record for building strategic campaigns that facilitate effective, employee-led change at large, multinational companies. In 2020, she led the Works Council committee that negotiated the biggest restructuring in history - saving hundreds of jobs, implementing a competitive voluntary leave scheme, and the company’s first-ever social plan. Her 10+ year career in the tech industry has laid the foundation for her to effectively empathize with employees, equip them with information, and inspire them to take action. She is passionate about the opportunity she sees for workplace democracy to intersect with important topics such as burnout prevention, climate justice, job security, and DE&I. In her free time, Kelly likes to write and runs an online poetry magazine. She is currently based in Amsterdam.


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