ROBIN UTRECHT

Sicknotes for short illness soon a thing of the past

Federal government ministers are examining how to abolish the doctor’s note for employees who are ill and off work for a short period of time. A decision is expected this week.

Each and every year doctors see 3 million patients, who will be off work for a day or two.  The total bill for this operation is believed to top 62 million euros a year.  The government is now keen to abolish the requirement for employees to consult a doctor in order to obtain a doctor’s note for their employer in the event of short illnesses. Ministers still have to decide whether doctor’s notes won’t be required for two or three days of absence. 

Everybody will still be able to see their doctor if they so wish, but if you are able to judge your situation for yourself and don’t think it’s necessary it shouldn’t be required for a couple of days.

The idea was launched by the Flemish green deputy premier Petra De Sutter, the first trans cabinet minister in Europe. She says the idea has the support of GPs and employers.

Roel van Giel of the family doctors’ association Domus Medica: “GPs have been pressing for this for some time.  In the event of short illnesses patients know very well what to do.  Often, we can’t provide any extra advice than to let the illness take its course.  We don’t provide any medical added value.  The visit to the surgery has the sole purpose of fulfilling an administrative requirement and that we want to get rid of.”

Kris De Meester of the Belgian Employers’ Organisation VBO confirms employers are pro, but adds a broader discussion is needed that includes doctors’ prescription behaviour, the employer’s ability to carry out checks and employee responsibility. The VBO favours a system in which sick employees contact their employer and provide a declaration.  Employers are wary of short illness being used as an excuse for hangover days, family visits or other forms of leisure.

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