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Workers' medical details passed to employers by 'absenteeism stoppers'

Friday 23 March 2012

The Netherlands' biggest private health and safety firm (arbodienst) has been passing confidential medical information to employers, television current affairs show Zembla will report on Friday evening.

Many Dutch firms rely on private companies to monitor health and safety in the workplace, follow up on sick workers and help get them back to work.

Zembla focuses on the big business of these private health and safety firms and looks at the biggest - Verzuimreductie - which includes department stores V&D and the Bijenkorf among its clients. In total, the company has some 100,000 potentially-sick workers under its wings. The Hengelo-based company's slogan is 'absenteeism leaves holes. We get workers back to work faster.'

Zembla's findings show confidential medical information has been given to employers and call centre staff have been used to question sick workers about why they are off work. By law, only company doctors can ask about the reason for sick leave.

The programme says doctors are worried about the rise in the number of these private firms, in which managers with no medical training decide if people are fit to return to work.

The Dutch privacy watchdog CBP has called for an investigation, news agency ANP reports. The company itself has said it will start an internal probe into what has gone wrong.

© DutchNews.nl


Readers' Comments

Yes i have come across theses guys.They come to your door and bully you back to work.If you answer the door the logic is you are fit enough to work.IF you dont answer the door they mark you down as uncooprative catch 22...and this has been going on since i arrived in Holland more than 17 years ago.

By jason buttle | 23 March 2012 9:09 AM

Makes me sick to my stomach to hear this. I think I'll call in sick.

By Andrejs | 23 March 2012 9:38 AM

Man this makes me VERY ANGRY! I see this over and over and over and over again that mine and others privacy rights are being IGNORED by the NL government, by NL health care companies, by NL ITC companies, on and on and on. Do I have to actually sue the crap out of someone to get them to understand the importance of privacy? Obviously - sorry VERY obviously - Dutch people are not advanced or intelligent enough to understand why this is VERY IMPORTANT. Otherwise we would not see it twice a week in the news. Unbelieveably incomprehensibly ignorant.

By Bill | 23 March 2012 11:24 AM

My own experiences and that of my work mates from the arbo mafia is getting close to harrassment, and now this. I am not suprised one bit about it.

By @CluthaDubh | 23 March 2012 4:28 PM

@Bill. An essential component of the Protestant and Catholic Dutch mind-set is an extreme respect for authority. Any entity that can be *thought of* as an authority(public or private), thanks to an absolutistic interpretation of Romans 13. Any privacy-invasive action will most likely be accepted in the long run. Given this, sueing the crap out of one or more such entity might be necessary. It also explains the ignorance you mention: resistance doesn't occur to many Dutch people. It's occurred more than once to me. BTW, thanks for mentioning Prof. Chomsky. One of my (anti)American heroes too.

By Husserl | 23 March 2012 5:25 PM

And this is exactly why I am against the whole members only coffee shops. Can you imagine how the "stoners lists" would be used in a country with no regard of data protection laws? And Arbodienst should be the first ones to get "arbodiensted" with their rules. I've only had bad experiences with the ones I've dealt with, both as a sick person and as manager of a sick person. The arbodiensts I know, I find them borderline incapable.

By Alice | 23 March 2012 6:08 PM

Workers' medical details passed to employers by 'absenteeism stoppers'. The “DeArbodient” may be going against your ”Gatekeeper Improvement Act”. This is very much like your car insurance passing information on to the police automatically when you have an accident. The question remains how do they get your medical information. This is important if they know you have diabetes , breast cancer or are HIV positive then they pass it on. In a West European democracy unusual.

By Terence Hale | 24 March 2012 6:45 AM

And they want us to hand our personal health information over to a national health data bank assuring us it will be kept private and not shared with insurance providers. Ha!

By Quince | 24 March 2012 8:19 AM

If your doctor passes on to another any medical information without your permission, it's breaking the law. The privacy law has not yet been changed...

By The visitor | 24 March 2012 11:49 AM

I once had the ARBO come to my door and threaten me that if I didn't let her into my flat she would report me as not being sick. The only thing they do is to bully and pressure you to go back to work.

By Stefan | 26 March 2012 4:10 AM

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