Returning to work after a long-term illness in the Netherlands


There are a few struggles an international has to overcome in order to succeed in the Dutch job market. When you are faced with a long-term illness that prevents you from working at your current occupation, there are steps both you and your employer can take in order to make your reintegration into the workforce easier. Find out what you are entitled to in the Netherlands below!

Reporting in sick in the Netherlands

Soon after you fall ill, you will have obligatory meetings with a company doctor, every 6 to 8 weeks. They officially confirm your capabilities and restrictions to the employer. Furthermore, in an effort to prepare you for reintroduction into the company, both parties create an action plan in order to ensure you begin working at a pace that suits you.

As per the Sickness Benefits Act, employers are obligated to continue to pay at least 70% of your salary for the duration of your contract – or up to a maximum of 2 years. If your contract ends before you’re fit to return, you can apply for sickness benefits from the UWV.

And remember, during this period, your job is protected. Your employer cannot dismiss you unless there are specific, legitimate reasons to do so.

Two-track reintegration in the Netherlands after a long-term illness

In Dutch employment law, the first track and second track of reintegration represent two primary paths to help employees return to work from a long-term illness.

First-track – reintegration into the original company

During your absence, both parties – you and your employer – have a responsibility: making an effort towards reintegrating you back into your original company. This journey is documented by you, the company doctor and your employer. The documentation varies and includes i.e. details from the action plan, documentation from bi-monthly progress meetings, and a record of mutually agreed activities for your return. To ensure a smooth transition, your employer may suggest changes. This could mean adjusting your workspace, tweaking work hours, or even redefining your role to cater to your new requirements.

Second – track – reintegration into another company or occupation

If you have fallen ill for more than 12 months and reports have found that you will not be able to return to your previous job soon, your employer is obliged to request the services of a reintegration company or a  career coach, in order to help you reorient and look for a more suitable occupation.

In the Netherlands’ reintegration process, the 1st track’s modifying your role in your original company always takes precedence.

What does the 2nd track entail?

In order to help you adjust to your new situation, the 2nd track reintegration provides tools and support to ensure you’re not overwhelmed. This includes:

  • Addressing job insecurity and the possibility of leaving your current employer
  • Assisting in finding an inspiring and realistic job that aligns with your abilities
  • Training for job applications in the Dutch market: from CV writing and utilising LinkedIn to networking and interview training
  • Offering the possibility of a 3-month trial placement (werkervaringsplek) to give you first-hand experience in a potential role. This can be extended with an amendment regularly.

Failure to Comply with reintegration efforts

The Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) supervises the reintegration process. If they find that efforts haven’t been made by the employer, they can impose sanctions, such as extending the period during which the employer must continue to pay the employee’s salary beyond the usual two years.

Employees are also expected to cooperate in the reintegration process. If they fail to do so without a valid reason, they risk losing their entitlement to continued payment of wages during illness.

Do you have to accept any job?

No, only a job that fits your physical and mental capabilities, as well as experience, skills and education, should be considered. Also, typically only jobs starting at 65% of your original salary are official matches.

WIA aanvraag

The WIA Aanvraag refers to an application for benefits under the work and income according to the Labour Capacity Act. The WIA is the Dutch statutory insurance scheme intended for employees who become partially or fully disabled from work due to illness or injury.

No-risk rule for new employers

The no-risk policy is an incentive provided by the Dutch government to encourage employers to hire individuals with a disability or illness. The goal is to reduce the financial risk associated with hiring someone who might become unable to work due to a pre-existing condition or illness. This can lead to increased job opportunities for candidates looking for a different occupation as well as job security.

As you can see, the Netherlands offers many advantages for employees, including a robust framework that not only protects workers but also guides them back into the workforce. With mutual cooperation, clear communication, and the structured support of both tracks of reintegration, the journey back to employment becomes less intimidating.


Good luck we hope you will recover soon!


This article has been written in cooperation with Margot Ros. A career coach specialised in assisting candidates in overcoming obstacles in their career, giving guidance, providing application support and helping employees reintegrate after a long-term absence due to an illness, amongst other things.

Feel free to contact her for additional information, Call 0647163942 or  [email protected].

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