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What does necessary care mean?

An employee has requested care leave to look after an ill parent. The care provided must be ‘necessary care’. What does this mean?

The ‘Wet arbeid en zorg’ (Work and Care Act), abbreviated as WAZO, regulates short-term and long-term care leave. Different conditions apply to these two types of leave.
Short-term leave – per year, a duration of at most twice the weekly working hours – can be taken by an employee for so-called ‘necessary care’ of an ill family member. Article 5, clause 1 of the WAZO states for which family members such leave can be requested: for a first-degree or second-degree blood relative. Parents are an example of first-degree blood relatives. ‘Necessary care’ means that the parent requires the respective care and that no one other than the employee can reasonably provide it. This is not the case if care is already provided by a hospital. You may ask the employee in question to provide evidence for the necessity of the care.
An employee can also take long-term care leave, although this type of leave is unpaid (contrary to short-term care leave, during which an employee receives part of his/her wages). In order to be eligible for long-term care leave – per year, at most six times the weekly working hours – it is not required for the care to be ‘necessary care’ in the event of a life-threatening illness. Up to a week after the request, you may ask the employee to provide evidence in writing for the need to take long-term leave. When in doubt, law dictates you must discuss the request for leave with the employee. If it is rejected, you must notify the employee in writing, at the latest one week before the intended start date of the requested leave.

Expectations

It is only possible to deviate from the aforementioned rules laid down by the WAZO if permitted by the collective labor agreement or an organization-based arrangement approved by the works council and employee representatives. You can help out employees by granting their request for care leave anyway, regardless of whether the care provided meets the conditions for ‘necessary care’. However, do remember that such leniency will affect the expectations of employees in future requests for (care) leave.

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