Doctor recommends 14 days leave for employee due to his sick dog

A Belgian Dutch employer almost choked on his coffee when he saw a doctor’s note saying ‘14 days absent due to dog sickness’. Is that allowed?

“I thought it was a joke, a bad one. That my nephew says that the dog has eaten his homework, that’s still possible. But that an employee stays at home for 14 days because his dog is sick? What else are we going to experience,” says Kris Claes of Voka Limburg, an organisation that looks after the interests of entrepreneurs in Belgian Limburg. The doctor in question risks a complaint with the Order of Doctors.

Few days at home

“We had still said that he could stay at home for a few days to take care of the dog,” says Luc Awouters of Awouters Beton Concrete in Houthalen about his employee. “My people can always come to me if something is wrong. But when he came out with a sick note to stay at home for 14 days because of his dog’s illness, it went too far for me. My other people have to work overtime now because he stays at home. That is not possible. He can expect his resignation. I don’t understand that from the doctor either.”

But is it possible? “Legally speaking, we’re not in a twilight zone. Guaranteed wages in the event of incapacity for work are only available if the employee is unable to work himself because he is ill or had an accident,” says Kris Claes of Voka Limburg.

“Not because a family member or a good friend, let alone a pet, is ill. It is unprecedented that an employee dares to ask his family doctor about this and that the doctor then goes into it as well. Unless, of course, it is a guide dog for the blind or another assistance dog. But that was not the case here,” he emphasised.

Medical link

Domus Medica, the association of general practitioners, also finds it hard to accept: “This doctor should know better: there must be a clear medical link with the patient, such as an illness, an accident, an operation or the after-effects thereof. But a ‘sick dog’, that is against the letter of the law. The doctor in question can be tapped on the fingers and possibly risks a complaint to the Order.”

The doctor in question from Bocholt was not available for comment.

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