In many cases, a labor conflict involves tension and emotions. Those tension and emotions are a normal reaction to an extraordinary situation, but in principle do not justify the employee calling in sick. Do you want to prevent labor conflicts within your company, or at least manage them properly so that a disagreement does not unnecessarily lead to sick leave? In addition to the reintegration protocol, you should also have a labor conflict protocol with agreements on how to handle a labor conflict. We gladly tell you more about this.
WHAT IS AN EMPLOYMENT CONFLICT PROTOCOL?
The Dutch foundation Stichting Expertisecentrum Participatie (STECR) has drawn up a manual with guidelines on how a company doctor should deal with illness related to a conflict in the workplace. This manual is called the STECR Guideline on Labor Conflicts (STECR Werkwijzer Arbeidsconflict). The most recent version of the STECR Guideline refers to the possibility of drawing up an employment conflict protocol. An employment conflict protocol can include interventions that help employees from calling in sick because of a labor conflict while, strictly speaking, they are still able to work.
An employer can, in cooperation with the works council or employee representation, draw up an employment conflict protocol as part of the prevention measures taken within the organization. The protocol should be adequately brought to the attention of the employees.
The employment conflict protocol can function as an independent protocol within an employee manual but can also be combined with employee grievance mechanisms and a possible whistleblower policy.
WHAT DO YOU INCLUDE IN A LABOR DISPUTE PROTOCOL?
Such a protocol can, among other things, address topics such as:
• what do you do/where can you go if you experience a conflict with someone;
• what can you do if you can’t work it out together?
• where can you safely report it or who can you ask for help;
• what is mediation and when can it help;
• what is the role of the company doctor.
An employment conflict protocol can also include interventions for the situation when emotions run so high that an employee wants to take a break from work.
For example, there are employment conflict protocols that state that an employee can claim a “labor conflict leave” up to once every 2 years. The employee can then claim this (paid) leave without calling in sick. The employee is given a number of days (often a maximum of 3) to take some distance from the conflict, but with the obligation, when taking this leave, to immediately make an appointment with a (trusted) person within the organization with whom the conflict and a possible solution should be discussed.
Taking employment conflict leave is therefore not optional but ensures that a process is set in motion aimed at making the conflict negotiable and resolving it. It also ensures that (unjustified) sick leave is prevented.
The protocol can also point out to the employee the possibility of contacting the company doctor within the framework of a so-called open consultation hour. The Working Conditions Act gives the employee the right to do so.
WHAT IF THE EMPLOYEE CALLS IN SICK ANYWAY?
The employment conflict protocol can also give the company doctor room to act in situations in which the employee has reported sick first anyway after which the company doctor assesses that there is a labor conflict and not a situation in which the employee cannot perform the stipulated work for medical reasons. Thus, the company doctor can advise taking a few days’ leave to create distance from the conflict. Then there is an intervention period in the form of exemption from work, as described in the Dutch Association for Occupational and Business Medicine’s guideline ‘Conflicts in the work situation’. Such an intervention period should preferably be established in the labor conflict protocol in consultation with the company doctor.
WANT TO KNOW MORE?
Would you like to know more about an employment conflict protocol? Contact us by phone or email and we will look into it with you!