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


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.